The sweet left foot of the Roar’s Matildas ace Elise Kellond-Knight could be the edge that helps steer her team to the knockout phase of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The 24-year-old has been a hard-working 180-minute warrior and inspiring No.6 for the Matildas in their 2-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday and opening round 3-1 loss to the United States.
Kellond-Knight, the Roar W-League team vice-captain, says she has modelled her screening midfield play on the Roar’s Hyundai A-League star Luke Brattan, one of the league’s best holding midfielders.
“It’s that playmaking role where you have to be ahead of the game,’’ Kellond-Knight told reporters in Canada, where the Matildas have relocated to Edmonton in preparation for their final group stage game against Sweden (Wednesday, 10am AEST).
“It’s something that developed throughout my playing career. It’s the style of player I always wanted to be.
“When I watch a bit of football I always usually watch the player at No.6.
“You can see their movements and the movement off the ball is probably the most critical.
“Being able to read the play and knowing where the space is so you can take advantage of it.”
Kellond-Knight appears to have picked up at this World Cup where she left off in Germany four years ago when the then 20-year-old was the only Australian named in FIFA’s All Star team.
Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic praised Kellond-Knight after the Nigeria win and called her the side’s “key” player.
“Elise Kellond-Knight has probably been our best player in the last two matches – consistently blocking passes, blocking lanes and good distribution when she gets there,”Stajcic said.
“She is a fantastic screening player.”
Kellond-Knight, who is being supported in Canada by her parents and brother, later told AAP that her coach’s praise was “very kind and unexpected”.
“I’ve been given a role and have tried to put my head down and do that work,” she said.
“It’s a quiet achiever role. You’re not necessarily the star player but you’re doing a lot of work off the ball to keep the team together and make sure that midfield functions.”
The Matildas are in second spot in their group and go into the challenging match against Sweden knowing they control their destiny in the competition.
The machinations are many, including the Matildas winning the group, hoping to scrape through as a lucky third-placed team or even crashing out of the tournament if they lose to Sweden and the Nigerians upset the US.
The Swedes surprised many with their scoreless draw against the Americans at the weekend
Stajcic says his team will be approaching the Sweden game as if it was a sudden-death final.
“We’re not taking anything for granted against Sweden,” he said.
Defender Laura Alleway, another of the seven Roar players in the Matildas squad, has played 173 minutes across the two games and has pulled up well despite the workload and in contention for selection again.
All matches from the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 are live on SBS ONE, SBS HD and online, with concurrent group stage matches streamed live online at www.sbs.com.au/theworldgame.
The Matildas-Sweden game kicks off at 10am on Wednesday (AEST).