Tony Gustavsson’s squad for qualifiers features 21 of the 23 players who reached the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in August
One minute the Matildas heroes were chasing World Cup glory – the next they’re on the path to Olympic glory.
Almost the entire Australian squad that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in August will travel to Perth at the end of next week as Tony Gustavsson’s side begins the qualifying route for the 2024 Olympics.
Only Kyah Simon and Aivi Luik miss out, through injury, to be replaced by Under-23 captain Amy Sayer and Brighton and Hove Albion’s Charlize Rule – whose call-up comes just hours after scoring her first goal for her new club, though she will be in the Matildas squad as a train-on player and won’t take part in the three games.
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Australia will face Iran (26 October), the Philippines (29 October) and Chinese Taipei (1 November) in Group A – assuming they top it, Gustavsson’s side would then face a home-and-away play-off with one of the other group winners or the best-placed runners-up from across the three groups. The winner of that play-off will qualify for the Olympics.
The Matildas are clearly favourites after coming fourth at the World Cup, the best return of all the Asian sides, and will be backed by partisan crowds at HBF Park (the games against Iran and Chinese Taipei) and Optus Stadium (for the game against the Philippines, with more than 50,000 tickets sold already).
The opposition in that second game are now coached by Western United boss Mark Torcaso, after Alen Stajcic, who had guided the nation to their first World Cup, left to take over the Perth Glory men’s team.
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“It’s hard to believe that by the time we take the field in Perth that it would have been over two months since that exhilarating and unifying month of football in Australia,” Gustavsson said.
“While we have had some time to reflect on the impact of this remarkable team on and off the pitch, the special trait of this group is that they are always looking to embrace the next challenge and that is now qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“With just over 285 days to go until that opening kick-off in France, we have called up players that we know are ready to take us forward to the next phase of qualifying, while looking to reward a couple who have performed strongly in the U-23 Program.”
Kerr returns to her home city after recovering from an injury that hampered her start to the Women’s Super League season in England, while there are three players from the Liberty A-League in the squad in Cortnee Vine, Tameka Yallop and Lydia Williams.
“We are excited about the next chapter and continuing to build on the legacy for this team and it all starts in Perth,” Gustavsson added.
“We understand the importance of high-quality performances and know these will be challenging matches against teams who will also be committed to continuing their journey to Paris next year.”