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Matildas' motivation soaring for NZ clash

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/06/2016 Emma Kemp

The Matildas and New Zealand will have their eyes on the same prize when they face off in the first of two friendlies.

And that's what makes Saturday's trans-Tasman battle in Ballarat all the more crucial for coach Alen Stajcic.

Both teams will add the final touches to their Rio Olympics preparations in the coming days, with the Matildas and the Football Ferns to clash first at Ballarat's Morshead Park before meeting again at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night in a curtain-raiser for the Socceroos' second match with Greece.

Stajcic will use the Matildas' final hit-out before leaving for Brazil to give his squad valuable game time and firm up his final Olympics line-up to be confirmed early next month.

In what he described as a "friendly but fierce" rivalry, the coach expected a physical showing from an experienced Kiwi side with identical motivation.

"They've got a really solid team, they're really good all round the park without having any exceptional players," Stajcic said.

"They've been together for a long time and a lot of players have 80-100 caps in their team.

"So we know they're going to be a tough team, and certainly one that's got a high motivation going to the Olympics as well."

The Matildas are all together again for the first time since blitzing February's Olympic qualifiers, where they defeated Japan to help bundle the heavyweights out of contention.

Their full set of overseas-based players are back with the exception of Sam Kerr, who's still recovering from a foot injury.

And with a full week's preparation and morale high among his world No.5 gold-medal hopes, Stajcic said a triumph over 16th-ranked New Zealand would wrap an ideal Rio preparation.

"We've played them recently a couple of times and had a 3-2 and a 3-3, so we know it's going to be a tough game," he said.

"We also know New Zealand like playing against Australia, with the little brother, big brother syndrome they're highly motivated to beat us.

"They haven't beaten us in 24 or 25 years so we know they'd like to get one over us.

"But this is important for our preparation, so the motivation is soaring."

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