Matildas determined not to let Olympics chance slip

Anna Harrington |

After two fourth-placed finishes, the Matildas will strive for a medal in Paris once they get there.
After two fourth-placed finishes, the Matildas will strive for a medal in Paris once they get there.

Desperate to salvage a tangible prize for a golden generation running out of time, the Matildas are determined to ensure they don’t let a medal slip at the Paris Olympics.

Tony Gustavsson’s charges felt the bitter after taste of finishing fourth in Tokyo, then again at their home Women’s World Cup.

Holding a 3-0 lead over Uzbekistan after the away leg of their qualifier, Australia are poised to seal qualification for Paris in the home leg at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on Wednesday night.

One of several key players now over 30, stand-in skipper Steph Catley is determined to make this opportunity count.

“With this group we have come very, very close to achieving something physical; at the last Olympics and the World Cup, we finished fourth – and that’s something that sits pretty heavy within this group,” Catley said.

“We obviously are all getting a little bit older now and the opportunities for major tournaments is getting thinner.

“We’re definitely very motivated to get something physical, out of the last however many years that we’ve built this team up to the point that we are now.

“The football we’ve played, especially over the last couple of years, we’re competing with the best in the world consistently. And we want to continue to do that for as long as we can.

“But obviously you look at the core group of this team and we are definitely running out of opportunities.

“We have to qualify for the Olympics first, but we definitely see this as a massive opportunity to get something physical out of what we’ve done over the last few years – and the passion and desire to do that is definitely there.”

That starts with delivering a ruthless performance on Wednesday, despite temperatures of 36C expected at 8pm kick-off.

“Even if it’s heat, we’re not going to hold anything back,”  Gustavsson said.

“We’re going to run in behind, we’re going to break lines, we’re going to regain the ball, we’re going to go attack, attack, attack.”

Given the tight turnaround, rotations appear on the cards as players attempt to press their case for selection in the 18-player Olympic squad.

Veteran Michelle Heyman changed the first leg when she came off the bench and scored, while Caitlin Foord’s second-half class was also pivotal.

Caitlin Foord.
Caitlin Foord celebrates after scoring in Olympic qualifying against the Philippines in Perth. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

“Both of them are definitely options to start, especially considering Heyman’s performance when she came off the bench,” Gustavsson said.

“Caitlin we knew we had to adjust her load a little bit coming in.

“We’ll see in training today how she looks in terms of how many minutes and then whether we use those minutes from the start or in the second half.

“You might see a couple of rotations but we also need to remember that I also think consistency and chemistry is key.

“You’ve seen that over the years and also we don’t have that many games before the Olympics.

“We haven’t qualified yet. So we need to focus on one game but it’s not just the game to qualify. It’s also the game to get minutes preparing for a potential Olympics as well.”

All 22 players, plus train-on Sophie Harding, trained at Marvel Stadium on Wednesday night.

Mary Fowler and Charli Grant both had knee strapping while Kyra Cooney-Cross (knee) Chloe Logarzo (elbow) and Jada Whyman (knee) also had different levels of taping.

But none appeared restricted during the short window open to media.

AAP