The mammoth challenge awaiting the Matildas as they gun for Australia’s first football World Cup win will become clearer this weekend.
Australia will be plucked out of the hat in Paris on Sunday morning (AEDT), discovering their group stage opponents at the Women’s World Cup next year in France.
As a seed, the Matildas will avoid world champions United States, the hosts, as well as powerhouses Germany, England and Canada.
But there are plenty of other challenges like European champions Netherlands, Scandinavian giants Norway and Sweden, plus Brazil able to take it up to Alen Stajcic’s side.
“It’s exciting but I actually genuinely don’t care who we get in our group,” he told AAP.
“I know all the teams there, we’ve played against virtually all of them.
“They are all at a high level now, so it’s more just anticipation of seeing who we have to prepare against.”
The top two sides in each of the six groups, as well as four third-placed finishers, make it through to the last 16 in France, replicating the complicated format used at the 2016 European Championship.
Australia will finalise a base camp, travel and their match schedule leading up to the tournament in the days after the draw.
Chief among Stajcic’s concerns will be ensuring his 23-strong squad can enter June’s 24-nation tournament in cherry ripe condition.
That’s easier said than done given at the W-League’s conclusion in February, some will pack up and head overseas for club stints, and others will take a break before France.
The Matildas have locked in one of several international friendly matches planned in the lead-up to France.
They will return to America to play the USA on April 4 in Commerce City, Colorado.
Stajcic said playing against the current top-ranked nation in the world ahead of June’s tournament would offer his side a great preparation leading into the tournament.
“The USA are one of the favourites to win … so it is fantastic that we will be able to play them just a couple of months before the start of the tournament in France,” Stajcic said.
“Come April next year many of our players will be playing their club football in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), so it also makes sense from a logistical perspective to arrange a camp and friendly in North America as we continue to prepare for the World Cup.
“We expect to play a further five or six matches prior to the start of next year’s World Cup.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride this year I think of terms of our performances and I think that’s been reflective of the toll of the amount of football that the players have played.
“It’s the first time we’ve had full-time professionalism, full-time scrutiny, full-time attention, full-time adulation, full-time playing load.
“Some players have played 50, 60, 70 matches this year.
“As we move forward we will find solutions to help our players deal with it.”
Joining Stajcic in Paris is a small FFA delegation to meet with other nations and confederations as Australia guns to win support for its 2023 World Cup bid.
FIFA has yet to confirm the bidding regulations and process for the decision, expected to be taken around the 2019 tournament.
LIKELY WOMEN’S WORLD CUP POTS
POT A: France, USA, Germany, England, Canada, Australia
POT B: Japan, Brazil, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Norway
POT C: Italy, Scotland, China, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand
POT D: Argentina, Nigeria, Chile, Jamaica, Cameroon, South Africa
Notes: At least one, and at most two, European nations will be in each four- nation group. Teams from other confederations cannot be matched with each other in the group stage. Pots will be confirmed by FIFA on Saturday (AEDT).
FOLLOW THE DRAW LIVE FROM 4AM SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER IN OUR BLOG