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World Cup fever takes hold at Westfields Sports High

Westfields Sports High School is playing a central role in the Matildas' World Cup campaign.

Leah Blayney and Angelique Hristodoulou

On the ball: Teacher Leah Blayney with Westfields Sports High School captain Angelique Hristodoulou.

When the Matildas take the pitch for their opening World Cup match on Sunday night, students at Westfields Sports High School will be watching the national women’s football team with particular interest.

Among the squad and team officials is a cohort of current and former Westfield Sports High School students and teachers.

Three former students – Alanna Kennedy, Ellie Carpenter and Amy Harrison – and current student Kyra Cooney-Cross are part of the national squad in France for the 2019 World Cup.

They are being supported by teachers Tony Wignall, the Matildas’ strength and conditioning coach and Leah Blayney, who is part of the Matildas’ technical analysis team.

Westfields Sports High school captain and Emerging Matildas, Angelique Hristodoulou, said excitement at the school as the World Cup neared was growing and she would definitely tune into the opening match.

She was especially excited for her school team mate Kyra Cooney-Cross, who was on the bench for the warm-up match against The Netherlands.

Angelique, who has captained the Australian U17 team, said the environment at the school was a perfect platform for students to fulfil their ambitions to play for the Matildas.

“We train every day except Thursday and the facilities such as the ice bath and gym are there for us all the time, plus we are being trained by national-level coaches,” she said.

Ahead of her departure for France, Ms Blayney, who leads the girls’ football program at Westfields, said seeing their classmates perform on the global stage was an incredible source of inspiration for her students.

Ms Blayney, who is a former Westfields Sports High student and Matildas player, said she was grateful for the opportunity to come back to the school as a teacher and work with such highly skilled students.

“It is different from coaching a team,” she said. “In the school environment you have them for six years in all aspects of their lives.”

Blayney, who was also part of the Matildas staff at the Rio Olympics, said her main role at the World Cup was to analyse the team’s opponents and feed that information back to the coaching team.

She said many of the girls in the Westfields Sports High squad had ambitions to play for the Matildas and had represented Australia already at a junior level – in the Junior Matildas (U20) eight of the 21-strong squad were students at the school.

Many of the school team also played in the W-League including Angelique, who is a defender with Sydney FC.

Westfields Sports High School is one of only three schools in Australia designated a high-performance centre by the Football Federation of Australia.

Over the years the school has produced more than 11 Matildas, 20 W-League players, 3O A-League players, and six Socceroos.

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