All hands on deck in Matildas' title chase: Wheeler
Australia's breakout midfielder Clare Wheeler says every player in the squad has a role to play in securing the country's second Women's Asian Cup title after a heavily rotated side secured a 2-1 win over Thailand.
Head coach Tony Gustavsson's lineup featured no less than nine new faces from the side that beat the Philippines 4-0 on Monday, with all 23 players in the Australian travelling party receiving game time during the group stage.
Having made her international debut came last September, Wheeler has enjoyed an impressive maiden senior tournament in national team colours, starting in the dominant 18-0 opening day win over Indonesia before being voted Player of the Match against Thailand.
Having helped the Matildas to victory, Wheeler said that every squad member has a part to play in the team's bid for a first Asian title since 2020.
"It takes 23 to win a tournament," she said, "Regardless of if the starters are missing, everybody has to play a role in order to lift the trophy at the end. At the end of the day, everyone played a role in this group stage and we can be proud of that."
While Thailand's future in the tournament - as well as the race to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup was on the line, Australia had little to lose on Thursday, with only a shock heavy defeat to put them in at any risk of losing top spot in Group B.
But Wheeler said the relatively low stakes on the night made no difference to Australia's approach, with intensity and quality imperative regardless of the circumstances.
"In every match, we want to do our best. That's plain and simple," she declared.
"We have our standards. If it's a group match, a playoff or a quarter-final, it doesn't matter we want to do our best, and that's what we do every game. Every game is like a final for us."
That statement certainly rings true for Australia's next match, when they will face an impressive South Korea in a knockout quarter-final in Pune on Sunday.
Korea drew 1-1 with two-time defending champions Japan on Thursday and remain undefeated in the competition after two wins and a draw in the group stage.