Australia’s squad now based entirely in Europe

One of the fascinating aspects of women’s football over recent years has been how quickly the landscape can change, from a massive upswing in crowds to growing on-field standards and media interest. Europe’s collective statement of intent at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™, and widespread investment in a dynamic club scene, are yet more significant examples in the continent.

Such growth in countries such as Spain, Italy, Netherlands and, in particular, England has changed the thinking for 2023 Women’s World Cup co-hosts Australia and their star-studded roster.

Heading into the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, just two of Australia’s 23 players were on the books of European clubs. Fast forward a little over two years and the entire squad from March’s AFC Olympic Football Tournament play-off are now based in the Old Continent.

The likes of Elise Kellond-Knight, Tameka Yallop and Aivi Luik had previously enjoyed lengthy spells in Europe. But then something unexpected happened – and typically it was Sam Kerr leading the way. The prolific striker ended a hugely profitable spell in USA’s NWSL to take up an offer to join Chelsea late last year. A few months later, three more key players – Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso and Chloe Logarzo – exited mid-W-League season to follow suit.

Suddenly, the trickle became a flood. The Kangaroo Route, the old-fashioned airplane ‘hop’ that took passengers from Australia to Europe in days gone by, suddenly had a new sporting context.

Thirteen Aussies took the field in last season’s NWSL, but the reason for a change in direction for 2020 is multi-layered. “I did sense a push for players to go to Europe,” Australia left-sided midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight, who has spent a large part of the past decade in Europe, told FIFA.com.

“The Matildas coaching staff identified that we didn’t perform against European teams (last year) and we haven’t in recent years, so that is a weakness. It is true that the biggest factor is COVID. The fact the American league couldn’t go ahead gave everyone a push as well, so there were a few factors.

“We have several players who have never played in Europe so it will be super beneficial for them,” said Kellond-Knight, who previously enjoyed a lengthy successful spell at Turbine Potsdam and is currently on the books of Sweden’s Kristianstads. ‘KK’s current home could barely be further from her Gold Coast base, both figuratively and literally, and her other sporting passion – surfing – is out of the question just for now. But the pay-off is worthy.

“On a personal level, I prefer European football, and I do really like many aspects of this lifestyle,” she says. “And with so many high quality players coming to Europe, everyone will obviously benefit from training in that environment every day.”

Key Aussies in Europe

England – Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Lydia Williams (all Arsenal), Alanna Kennedy (Tottenham), Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Chloe Logarzo (Bristol City), Hayley Raso (Everton), Emily van Egmond (West Ham)

France – Laura Brock, nee Alleway (Guingamp), Ellie Carpenter (Lyon), Mary Fowler (Montpellier)

Netherlands – Amy Harrison, Kyah Simon (both PSV Eindhoven)

Norway – Katrina Gorry, Clare Polkinghorne (both Avaldsnes), Karly Roestbakken (LSK Kvinner), Tameka Yallop (Klepp)

Sweden – Emily Gielnik (Vittsjo), Elise Kellond-Knight (Kristianstads)

Spain – Alex Chidiac (Atletico Madrid), Aivi Luik (Sevilla), Jenna McCormick (Real Betis)

fifa.com

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