Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is confident Ante Milicic will be a success as head coach of the Matildas, saying his lifelong friend has enjoyed the perfect apprenticeship.
Milicic has been installed as interim coach of the Matildas until the end of June’s World Cup following the controversial sacking of Alen Stajcic.
Popovic and Milicic have enjoyed a lifelong bond, with their friendship converting into brotherhood after marrying into the same family.
They are also godparents to each other’s kids.
The duo played together at Sydney United, and Milicic was Popovic’s right-hand man during their wildly successful stint together at the helm of Western Sydney.
Popovic is adamant Milicic, who has been a Socceroos assistant coach for two World Cups but has never coached a women’s team, has all the tools to succeed.
“I’m delighted for him. I know how excited he is for the challenge of coaching this good team and going to the World Cup as a head coach,” Popovic said.
“I’ve worked with him as a coach. He’s had a very good apprenticeship with the national teams, and worked under Ange (Postecoglou) and went to a couple of World Cups.
“He’s ticked a lot of boxes in terms of his coaching education. He’s a very good coach, and I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”
Milicic’s first major task is guiding the Matildas in the Cup of Nations, starting on February 28.
The sixth-placed Matildas are considered a genuine chance to win the World Cup, especially if Sam Kerr can stay injury free.
But how the drama of Stajcic’s sacking has affected the playing group so close to a major tournament remains to be seen.