Matildas' Raso back for Cup of Nations

Hayley Raso makes a welcome return to the Matildas squad for the Cup of Nations.
Hayley Raso makes a welcome return to the Matildas squad for the Cup of Nations.

Hayley Raso is the headline inclusion in a business-as-usual Matildas squad for the upcoming Cup of Nations under new coach Ante Milicic.

Milicic has barely ruffled a feather with his selections, leaving out Michelle Heyman but retaining the key names of the Alen Stajcic era.

Steph Catley, Aivi Luik and Eliza Campbell are back after missing November's series against Chile.

Raso should enjoy a rapturous return to the national team after recovering from a broken back suffered on club duty last year.

There's also a place for Sydney FC's W-League championship-winning captain Teresa Polias, who returns to the squad after four years away.

Melbourne Victory defender Teigen Allen, a strong performer on the team's run to an unlikely premiership, is also back after three years.

Milicic said the pair deserved their inclusions after great club campaigns.

"You've got to reward form," Milicic said.

"Teigen's had a successful season at Melbourne Victory. Being a defender, her versatility is very good for us.

"Teresa is another one. I look at her play and she reads the game really well. She intercepts a lot. She's got a very good understanding."

Milicic has yet to appoint a captain but the regular skippers under Stajcic, Clare Polkinghorne and Lisa De Vanna, are both in the squad.

For Heyman and code-swapping Brisbane defender Jenna McCormick - touted as a potential Matilda after a strong season - there is still hope of a World Cup berth.

"There is a longer list that we'll be monitoring," Milicic said.

"It's a very strong squad. The message is simple: Positions are up for grabs going into the World Cup.

"This camp is giving me an opportunity to look at people first-hand but there's a longer list."

Stalwarts Katrina Gorry and Kyah Simon are unavailable due to injury, but Milicic is hopeful of having the pair back in time for an early April away date with world champions USA.

Australia faces New Zealand on February 28 in Sydney, South Korea on March 3 in Brisbane and Argentina on March 6 in Melbourne.

MATILDAS SQUAD FOR THE CUP OF NATIONS

Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Eliza Campbell, Lydia Williams.

Defenders: Teigen Allen, Laura Alleway, Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne, Gema Simon.

Midfielders: Tameka Butt, Alex Chidiac, Elise Kellond-Knight, Chloe Logarzo, Aivi Luik, Teresa Polias, Emily van Egmond.

Attackers: Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord, Emily Gielnik, Princess Ibini, Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso.

Australian Associated Press