Matildas promise football feast

THE Matildas touched down in Coffs Harbour yesterday to fine tune their preparations for September's FIFA Women's World Cup and have organised a further feast of international football for local fans to enjoy.

Not only will Australia's national women's soccer team take part in a six-day training camp this week but their short stay on the Coffs Coast will be highlighted by two practice matches against New Zealand.

Unlike the men, New Zealand's women's football team are a strong force who have also qualified for this year's World Cup which makes the two matches at the Novotel Pacific Bay training ground this week absolute world-class events.

Matildas coach Tom Sermanni will have an expanded squad of 28 players in the camp which he hopes puts him in position to have the 21-strong World Cup squad announced in mid-August following the Matildas final Olympic qualification match against Chinese Taipei on August 12, also in Coffs Harbour.

"This is critical decision making time in regards selection of the World Cup squad and players will have a good understanding of where they currently stand for selection by the conclusion of the camp," Sermanni said.

"The week together will be a great opportunity to have the players working as a group and the two matches are an extremely important part of the squad's ongoing preparation for China."

Four uncapped Matildas are featured in this week's squad, namely Ellen Beaumont (Brisbane), Louisa Bisbi (Melbourne), Amy Chapman (Canberra) and Lisa Hartley (Wollongong), with only experienced midfielder Alicia Ferguson unavailable for the camp.

Australia will meet New Zealand in the practice matches tomorrow at 3pm and on Sunday at 1pm and in a special gesture to the people of Coffs Harbour, entry to both matches is free.

Australia will open their campaign at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup against Ghana on September 12 in Hangzhou.

The Matildas will then meet world number four ranked team Norway on September 15 in the same city before the final group match against Canada on September 19 in Chengdu.

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