Round of 32 beckons for West Aussie final four

Western Australia’s two spots on the national stage of the Australia Cup are up for grabs this week with the preliminary semi-finals taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Both matches will be live streamed on the Australia Cup and Football West Facebook pages, and Streamer, with the two winners also advancing to the WA State Cup Final in early September at the brand new State Football Centre in Queens Park.

Three of the four teams have reached the Round of 32 stage before, with Inglewood United hoping to put their name in the hat for the first time when they host Sorrento FC on Tuesday.

United have only reached the preliminary semi-final stage once since the competition began in 2014, an occasion which did not turn out well as they fell to a staggering 9-2 home defeat against Floreat Athena in 2016.

In the 2023 edition, Andres Oliveira’s side are yet to meet top-flight opposition with wins over Perth AFC, Gosnells City and Fremantle City to date, while in the league they currently sit bottom of the NPLWA – Men’s competition.

However, they are only two points adrift of four teams above them in a season which has seen most teams struggle for consistency. In fact, all four of WA’s remaining Round of 32 aspirants go into their semi-finals sitting in the bottom half of the division.

Sorrento are Inglewood’s visitors in the first semi-final, with Steven McGarry’s side losing late on against Perth SC on Saturday following back-to-back wins.

The Gulls are no strangers to this stage of the competition and remain the only non-A-League side from the west to reach the Round of 16 following a 1-0 win over Canberra United in 2017. But they have fallen short in recent seasons, having been eliminated at this stage of the competition in each of the past three campaigns.

In 2019 they lost on penalties to eventual State Cup winners Floreat, before losing 1-0 to ECU Joondalup in 2021 then falling in extra-time last year at home to Cockburn City. Like Inglewood, Sorrento have yet to meet NPL opposition in their cup run, having seen off Swan United, Mandurah City and Ashfield.

If they do win it will be a third time Sorrento have made it to the national rounds of the competition and that is the same for Cockburn City, who take on Floreat Athena in the other semi on Wednesday.

The fixtures also pits together the winners of the past two State Cups. Floreat also won the contest between the pair 3-0 when they met at this stage two years ago.

The Cockerels disposed of Rockingham City in round three, before home wins over league leaders Perth RedStar and Division One side Gwelup Croatia in the final eight. Steve McDonald’s side may be winless in four and second bottom in the league but have proven to be a match for anyone in the cup in recent years.

Floreat will make the trip to Dalmatinac Park hoping to continue their cup run after victories over Amateur side Jaguar FC, Division Two Curtin University and the NPL’s second-place side Balcatta Etna.

Athena have given this competition a shake on the previous occasions where they have reached the Round of 32. Most recently, they took A-League side Adelaide United to extra time in 2021, while also losing 2-1 to Melbourne City back in 2016 and 4-3 to Adelaide Olympic three years later.

The defending champions have not been at their swashbuckling best in 2023 with injuries playing their part. Vas Vujacic’s team are currently ninth after a 3-0 loss to Olympic Kingsway on the weekend, but are only four points off fourth and cannot be underestimated for a late push given the experience at their disposal.

Football West Preliminary Round 7

Tuesday 20 June
Inglewood United v Sorrento FC (Inglewood Stadium, 7pm)

Wednesday 21 June
Cockburn City v Floreat Athena (Dalmatinac Park, 7pm)