Matildas out to seal Olympic qualification in style

Anna Harrington |

The Matildas will go full tilt in Melbourne to confirm their Olympic place, Ellie Carpenter says.
The Matildas will go full tilt in Melbourne to confirm their Olympic place, Ellie Carpenter says.

Vice-captain Ellie Carpenter will lean on her wealth of Champions League experience as the Matildas aim to put their foot down against Uzbekistan and seal Olympic qualification in style.

The Matildas, who arrived in Melbourne on Monday morning, will take a 3-0 lead into Wednesday’s second leg against the Uzbeks, after goals from Michelle Heyman, Mary Fowler and Caitlin Foord settled Saturday’s clash in Tashkent.

Qualification is all but secured with a game to spare, but Carpenter said Australia’s intensity wouldn’t drop, after coach Tony Gustavsson lamented leaving goals on the table on Saturday night.

“We knew it was going to be hard to play away off the back of some travel as well, conditions there being very cold, and we knew they were going to be very hard to break down,” Carpenter said at Melbourne airport.

“But getting three goals there was very important for us to come here on Wednesday night and hopefully finish the job.”

The Lyon full-back has won the Champions League and is one of many in the Matildas side experienced in the two-legged play-off system.

“We’re three goals up but we don’t go into the game any different,” Carpenter said. 

“It’s 0-0 for us going in. We want to put out a very solid performance on Wednesday night and seal Olympic qualifying.

“A lot of us are very mature and professional in the way that we travel. We’ve done it so many times now … we’re very prepared and we need to bring 100 per cent.”

Carpenter is on track to become a three-time Olympian in Paris after making her Games debut as a 16-year-old in Rio in 2016 and finishing fourth in Tokyo five years later.

“Being an Olympian is such a great achievement. It’s everyone’s dream to go to another Olympics,” Carpenter said, lamenting the side’s medal near-miss in Japan. 

“We fell short last Olympics by one and a massive goal of ours is to medal.”

Both teams flew to Dubai immediately after Saturday night’s game, then shared the same flight to Melbourne.

After snow in Tashkent, the Matildas are set to deal with temperatures expected to spike in the mid-30s on Wednesday.

Sam Kerr’s injury has left Steph Catley to take the skipper’s armband for the Matildas, with Carpenter, 23, and Emily van Egmond elevated to the vice-captaincy.

“I’m very honoured to be named vice-captain of this team and to share a role with Emily,” Carpenter said.

“Form-wise, I’ve been doing well with Lyon and we’re on a great run there.

“To bring my form into this team is what I want to do, to bring the best version of myself and to help us qualify and be the best team we can be.”