Hollman and Kruger gear up for Young Matildas campaign

The Commbank Young Matildas Coach, Leah Blayney, announced her 23-player squad for the AFC U-20’s Women’s Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2024 starting in March. This list includes six Sydney FC players, the most out of any Liberty A-League side in the lineup.

Shay Hollman and Zara Kruger are two Sky Blues players returning to the side after performing strongly with Sydney FC, the Young Matildas and the Junior Matildas. 

“[By having six Sydney FC players], it shows the quality of our team and credit to our coaching staff and the girls here.

“It’s really exciting that we have a lot of us who have been given the opportunity to join the team,” said Hollman as she reflected on the efforts of her fellow Young Matildas and Sydney FC players, Tahlia Franco, Maddie Caspers, Indiana Dos Santos and Jynaya Dos Santos.

Blayney added, “They’re super talented players and currently in form, which is exciting.

Shay Hollman and Zara Kruger

“It’s a great opportunity to go overseas and put yourself on the world stage in front of some of the best coaches and players in the world, which is tremendous for this peer group. And, essentially, they bring that back to the Liberty A-League, which is fantastic.”

Leah Blayney talked highly about Sydney FC’s talent, as they are having a solid season, only losing one out of the last twelve games. 

She spoke about Maddie Caspers and Tahlia Franco and why the selectors chose them for the team. 

“We’ve seen Maddie Caspers and the form she’s been in the last three weeks, and we feel that she hopefully will continue with that in the Asian Cup format as well.

“The feedback from Sydney FC is that Tahlia Franco has been training extremely well. She has a great work ethic and is terrific for the group, and I look forward to seeing her challenge Chloe [Lincoln] and Grace [Wilson] for that number one spot.”

The six Sydney FC players will jet off to Dubai and then Tashkent on Tuesday and prepare for their group stage, which will involve Korea Republic, Uzbekistan and Chinese Taipei, with the hope of making it out of the group and, subsequently, qualifying for the U-20s World Cup, later this year.

Indiana Dos Santos and Maddy Caspers are also part of the Young Matildas

Kruger explained that this is an excellent opportunity for the Sky Blues players to get out of the country and play internationally.

“It’s really exciting. It’s the last qualifier before going into the World Cup. It’s also nice to travel to different places and get some wins.

“I just want to work towards building as a player going into another A-League season hopefully and one day hopefully play for the Matildas”, she said.

However, there will be a gap in the women’s team, as the six players will miss games against the Western Sydney Wanderers, Western United and possibly Wellington Phoenix. But Kruger was adamant that the Sky Blues would be ok without them.

“We’ve got a very big group of quality players, so there are always girls who are going to be able to come and fill the spots really well.

Kruger added: “Cortnee [Vine] has come off a World Cup, and Kirsty [Fenton] played in the Under 20s World Cup. They always took good things and experiences from it.”

Hollman reflected on her trip to Uzbekistan with Sydney FC in November, where the Sky Blues played in the AFC Club Championship against the top sides from South Korea and Uzbekistan. 

“That was a great trip with the Sydney girls. I think we played against some really hard competition.

“It was great that we got to see how Sydney FC looked against the South Korean power. We know they’re super mobile, got some very good technical players, and they’re in physically good condition,” Blayney added, when talking about the Sydney FC v the Hyundai Red Steel Angels match. 

Shay Hollman with her teammates including Zara Kruger

The Matildas is a massive dream for Kruger, who grew up in a country town 130 kilometres south of Brisbane.

“Growing up in a small country town, you’re doing everything by yourself, like on the farm training and working towards a high level.

“It’s a lot of commitment, and it’s a lot different in the Young Matildas compared to what I was used to before, but it’s really good”, she said.

The Young Matildas will play their first match against the Korea Republic on the 3rd of March, at 7:00pm. Viewers can watch the tournament live on Paramount+ and 10 Play.

Match Details:

Young Matildas v South Korea
AFC U-20s Women’s Asian Cup 
Sunday 3rd March, 2024
Dustlik Stadium, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Kick Off: 7:00pm AEDT
Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10Play

Young Matildas v Uzbekistan
AFC U-20s Women’s Asian Cup 
Wednesday 6th March, 2024
Jar Stadium, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Kick Off: 10:00pm AEDT
Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10Play

Young Matildas v Chinese Taipei
AFC U-20s Women’s Asian Cup 
Sunday9th March, 2024
Dustlik Stadium, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Kick Off: 7:00pm AEDT
Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10Play