Matildas ready to take on the world

BEATEN by Japan in the final of the 2011 women's World Cup in Germany, the US wants revenge and the first team standing in the way this time around is Australia.

The teams will clash in Winnepeg tomorrow morning in a match that is crucial to Australia's chances.

Just as the Socceroos drew the toughest group - Spain, the Netherlands and Chile - in Brazil last year, the Matildas have also come up with the 'Group of Death' in Canada.

Apart from the US, ranked second in the world behind Germany, the group also contains world No.5 Sweden, and No.33 Nigeria.

Until last year the US was coached by Australian Tom Sermanni, but a slump in form saw him replaced by Jill Ellis, who has overseen an unbeaten run stretching back to February.

Ellis said playing so close to home would be an advantage to her team, although she admitted finishing among the top two teams in Group D would be a real challenge.

"We're ready and hungry to win," she said. "Because it's close to home it's great for us. We're hoping for a big fan base to cheer our players on. Certainly if you roll over and die it's the group of death. We have no intention of doing so."

Australia comes into the tournament ranked No.10 in the world, and striker Sam Kerr (pictured) said confidence was high the Matildas could use their pace up front to begin with a good result against the US.

"It's been a long-time coming, we've been working for six months on this. Even longer when we found out the group stages. We've just been really, really excited," Kerr told reporters.

"We're confident in our ability and obviously there are some strong teams in there (the Matildas' group), but we don't come here to play weak teams - there's no weak team in the World Cup.

"It's important to get a win obviously, but if things don't go to plan it's not the end of the world, there's still two games left and we need to win those two."

Already playing in her second World Cup at just 21, Kerr said the Aussie team had depth across the park through stars such as Katrina Gorry, Lisa De Danna, Tameka Butt and Emily van Egmond.

"We've got a lot of speed up front - I think everyone knows that - but we've got great midfielders too," said Kerr, one of the Matildas' best in last month's 11-0 friendly win over Vietnam.

"If we stick to our game plan we think we have the patience and the ability to break anyone down."

Host Canada kicked off the tournament with a 1-0 victory over China, while the Netherlands beat New Zealand 1-0.

- APN SPORTS BUREAU



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