Alen Stajcic insists that there is “no complacency” within Australia’s ranks as they prepare to take on Thailand in the Asian Cup semifinal.
Stajcic’s Matildas earned their place at the 2019 World Cup by progressing to the final four of the AFC tournament in Jordan, jumping off the canvas with a late goal against Japan to seal a 1-1 draw and top spot in their group.
They now look forward to a semifinal against Thailand late on Tuesday.
That will be the rarest of occasions — a match deep in a tournament that should be much easier than their previous hit-out.
Japan is Australia’s great Asian rival, ranked 11th in the world and are former world champions. They are also the side that eliminated the Matildas in the last World Cup and defeated them in the last Asian Cup final.
Thailand are continental easybeats.
The Matildas put five past them in a lead-up match for the Asian Cup last month in Perth, and it could have been 10.
The Thais haven’t been this deep in a tournament for 30 years, progressing courtesy of a much easier group.
For Stajcic, the trick is to not focus on the opponent.
“There’s no complacency on our part,” he told AAP. “I’ve been around football long enough to know you can win 5-0 one day and lose 2-0 the next to the same team.
“We treat everyone the same whether they’re America or Thailand or Vietnam or Japan.
“The pre-match prep. The video analysis of ourselves and our opposition. Everything we need to do to make sure we hit the ground running on the first minute will be done.”
The Matildas found themselves in a precarious position against Japan.
When Mizuho Sakaguchi scored the opener, the Matildas had less than half an hour to score — or be knocked out of the Asian Cup.
Sam Kerr’s equaliser ensured Australia’s progression — and showed the squad’s character.
The result ensured a fourth-straight group stage success for Australia, a sign of maturity and consistency.
The Matildas also finished up top of their group at the last two Algarve Cups and last year’s breakthrough Tournament of Nations success.
Now it’s about finding knockout format success, which begins with Thailand and could end up against China or Japan in Friday’s final.
Beyond “a few niggles,” Stajcic said Australia had just one injury concern, Hayley Raso, who has a knee injury and faces a month on the sidelines.