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Matildas come of age at Tournament of Nations

Soccer

World-beating performances from the Matildas should no longer surprise.

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Star striker Sam Kerr says they should be expected.

And coach Alen Stajcic says the Australian women’s soccer team should be feared.

Results at this week’s Tournament of Nations in the USA suggests the Matildas have arrived.

On Friday (Australian time), Australia defeated the hosts and world’s No.1-ranked side for the first time in 27 meetings.

Yesterday, Kerr’s first-half hat-trick inspired the Matildas to belt Asian powerhouse Japan 4-2.

These two nations played off in the World Cup final in 2015.

On that basis, Kerr sees no reason why it can’t be Australia in 2019.

“We’ve been saying for a couple of years that we should be World Cup contenders,” she said.

“Now we’re really starting to show people that’s true, that we’re true contenders to be world No.1.”

Stajcic said it was a win to savour.

“You’ve got to appreciate it for what it is – a win over a world class opponent we haven’t had too many against,” he said.

“Last year’s (3-1 win in Olympic qualifying) was the first in five years.

“But as I said to the team, it’s our turn to start dominating these countries, to go in as favourite, compete with and beat the best nations on Earth.”

For Kerr, three goals was a keenly-sought return.

The 23-year-old has been banging them in for fun at club level – for Perth Glory in the W-League and Sky Blue FC in the US – but doesn’t have a prolific record in internationals.

In San Diego, the floodgates opened.

“It’s a special moment. It’s really nice to score some goals for the national team,” she said.

“I’ve played well but I haven’t played great. It’s been in the back of my mind and it’s nice to have belief I can do it internationally.”

Stajcic said Kerr’s sensational form was an inspiration to her team.

“She’s still a young player but in her movement on and off the ball, she’s by far the best in the world,” he said.

“If we can go into the next World Cup and have six or seven players who are the best in their positions we’ll be one of the most feared teams in the world.

“Sammy’s leading the way and giving the rest of the team a lot of confidence.”

-AAP 

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