Australia's Emily Gielnik determined to lock down World Cup berth: 'I need to keep backing myself'
If the Matildas' opening match in the inaugural Cup of Nations was an at times "tentative" 2-0 victory over New Zealand, matchday two against South Korea saw the side move from walk to run in fairly emphatic fashion.
Unfazed by the six changes to the starting lineup, Australia never looked troubled in their 4-1 win as a double from Sam Kerr was followed by a return to the score sheet for Lisa De Vanna. However, the most impressive strike of the night belonged to Emily Gielnik, who rifled home from a seemingly impossible angle to put the win beyond doubt.
Gielnik is in career-best form and was delighted to be back in Brisbane, where she spent eight years with the Roar in the W-League before heading back to her native Melbourne and a spot with the Victory last year.
At Brisbane she was the ultimate super-sub with 30 goals in more than 80 appearances, and while she scored for the Matildas in a starting role against New Zealand on Thursday, the 26-year-old wasn't even sure she'd get a chance at Suncorp on Sunday.
Speaking to ESPN after the match, Gielnik revealed: "I didn't know if I was going to come on this game so it was pleasing to get some minutes but with how I was feeling and putting in a lot of hard work in the first game, I thought I would be fresher coming off the bench in this one.
"Obviously with a new coach you take every opportunity you can because the big ticket is the World Cup and now is the time to prove yourself."
Gielnik has certainly ticked that box, and after her first two performances Ante Milicic has taken notice, creating a wonderful conundrum for the Matildas' new boss.
"We've got lot of quality in that front third," the Matildas coach said after Sunday's win. "When you look at Hayley [Raso] in the first game, De Vanna scoring tonight, Sammy [Kerr] as well, Gielnik, there's a lot there.
"Competition is healthy and to go far into a tournament that's what you need."
Milicic is keen on controlled possession, but finishing will be crucial in June and at 6 feet tall, Gielnik believes she may offer something a little different if given a chance in France.
"The defenders that we come up against at the World Cup are going to be world-class. They are going to study a lot of us strikers and our physical attributes and I think I'm a little different to the strikers we have," Gielnik said.
"We have a lot of dribblers, a lot of tidier players, I'm a little bit more of a ball-in-behind glider -- I'm a little bit unpredictable and that unpredictability and confidence boost I'm having, I do believe that if I keep backing myself I can be a weapon."
She definitely backed herself for the 81st-minute screamer that put the game beyond reach for the South Korean side.
"I'm usually the player that would cross that ball so it was nice to actually take that step back and go for goal," Gielnik added.
"It's up there in the books -- I believe it was a bomb so I'm pretty happy about that!
"[Thursday's] first one with my left, this one with my right. I can't complain. I'm pretty happy to have scored with both feet!"
Gielnik's versatility as a striker is another point that Milicic touched on postgame.
"One that can play on the left and the right," he said. "She's very good when she can get in those positions and face forward and be direct, with left and right foot -- very strong and capable of taking players one-on-one."
While the Matildas' World Cup squad is far from finalised, Gielnik has certainly staked her claim for a seat on that plane.
"I do believe that I need to keep backing myself," she said. "With two goals in two games I am pleased and I think I've got more in me -- so if I can make an appearance there I'd be looking to put my best foot forward."
Her next dilemma might just be choosing which foot is the best.