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Meet the Matilda out to star at Stanford

Amy Sayer in action for the Matildas Source: Getty Images

Back in the Matildas squad and back on the international stage, young midfielder Amy Sayer is out to make her mark in the United States.

Former Sydney FC and Canberra United playmaker Sayer joined elite American university Stanford last year.

While her debut season in California was cruelled by COVID-19, the 19-year-old’s hard work and potential was rewarded recently with selection in the Matildas squad that faced Germany and the Netherlands.

Sayer got 38 minutes off the bench in the 5-2 loss to the Germans but did not feature against the Dutch. While results didn’t go Australia’s way in the two friendlies, the youngster was pleased to be back in the national team set-up after more than two years in the wilderness.

“It was really great, it was amazing to be called back up as I haven’t been in the mix since about November 2018, when I had a major stress fracture injury,” Sayer told The World Game.

“Especially with the new coach it was nice to be called up again. Obviously there was some really difficult results. But it was a given – no one wants that sort of result – but its hard with the limitations that we had with Covid and the squad that was able to be called up from Europe and the US.

“And with a new coach in Tony, it was a lot of tactics we were trying to figure out in camp. But overall, always a great experience.

“Shorter than I wish it was, every time we catch up I just wish the camps would go on for a lot longer than they do. But yeah it was really enjoyable overall.”

The Sydneysider represented Australia at both Under-17 and Under-20 level, and debuted for the Matildas in 2018 under Alen Stajcic.

After helping Sydney FC win the W-League in 2019, she moved to the United States to continue both her football development and education.

Despite the challenges presented by the impact of the coronavirus, Sayer says she is “loving” her time in California in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference.

“It’s really, really great. I love it,” she said.

“Every day is just amazing with the team. The coaches, the resources that we have are insane. Just everything is really enjoyable. Unfortunately we missed out on the playoffs this year, but it was a really difficult time in the county that we’re in with Covid.

“When we got called in last year in August, within a few days our season got cancelled, then postponed to Spring. So it started in about January this year and we could barely train together, but it was all non-contact.

“So by the end of those three weeks half the team left and went home because it was just too difficult to train. I was kind of stuck here with a few other girls, I was the only one on campus training because I didn’t want to risk my visa or get stuck back in Australia.

“Everything was so uncertain for a while, we didn’t even know we were going to get a spring season until probably a week before we played a friendly game. It kind of came and went so quickly, and unfortunately we didn’t get the results we wanted.

“But we’re going to hunker down and work hard for this upcoming fall season.”

Sayer admits the football styles of the US and Australia have several similarities.

“It’s a little bit different, but I think America and Australia have very similar playing styles in terms of its fast, its physical,” she said.

“There’s a lot of high-pressing. It’s so fast-paced and physical, it’s a really good place for me to develop a different part of my game.

“There’s some different emphases, we do a lot more work in the gym and we have access to people in nutrition and sports psychology. That’s a real new experience and it’s quite enjoyable.”

The 19-year-old is studying a four-year degree in human biology while playing for Stanford. Passionate about her education, Sayer still sees football as her future.

“The goal for me has always been to play professionally at the highest level possible, as well as establishing myself as a consistent member of the Matildas,” she said.

“Hopefully, eventually as a starter. At the same time, academia has been such a big part of my life so I will likely try and continue my studies, at least part-time, while playing football.”

The Matildas head to Tokyo in July to take part in the Summer Olympics. While Sayer would be thrilled to be selected she knows, as one of the least experienced members of the squad, her chances of going to Japan are slim.

The attacking midfielder sees being part of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup on home soil, when she will be 21, as her ultimate target.

“It’s always the goal to play at the biggest level with the Matildas and to be selected in the Tokyo Olympics squad would be great,” she said.

“But I haven’t been in the squad for a little bit so I know it will be very difficult to break in again, and especially the fact that we can only take a squad of 18 to the Olympics.

“So that’s a lot smaller than the 23-person squad that usually gets selected. And I know that it’s an extremely competitive group, there’s a lot of new faces in, a lot of veterans in there already.

“So it will be difficult, but I’m hoping to be part of more camps in the lead-up to the Olympics, and hopefully I can do enough to be considered by the coaches and selected. But I’m just ready to work hard for it.

“It was great news to see we won the World Cup bid. Now that we’ve got a new cycle beginning, that’s the goal for me.

“It would be nice to be part of the Tokyo Olympics, and it would be a great experience to be part of the squad, but the 2023 World Cup is for sure my goal and that’s what I’m working towards.”