Eighteen of Australia’s finest women footballers, united by the goal of climbing onto the Rio 2016 Olympic podium, are heading to Brazil after the final Matildas squad was announced on Monday.
Making their first appearance since the Athens 2004 Games, of which only co-captain Lisa de Vanna remains, the side is full of confidence after a stellar 12 months.
The team won their first match at a World Cup in 2015, before running through the best Asia had to offer as they qualified undefeated for Rio earlier in the year.
Now, with the belief they can beat anyone they face in Brazil, the team is ready to make Australian Olympic history.
“We want to win a medal,” De Vanna, who finished fifth with Australia at the Athens 2004 Games, said in a media release.
“Obviously gold is what everyone is fighting for and dreams about but if we come back with any medal it would a massive boost for women’s football in Australia.”
The side features a host of players lining up in some of the toughest leagues in the world, while the increasing strength of the domestic W-League has provided locally based players the perfect platform for international success.
While the team spends the majority of the year playing at different corners of the globe, when this group comes together they are a united force to be reckoned with.
“The coaching staff has a massive influence on the success of the team instilling a sense of family and belief that we go out and play with,” continued De Vanna.
“Along with the skill of the players in this side, it is what sets this team apart from those of the past.”
Australia recently climbed to number five in the world rankings putting them well in the hunt in Rio where they will face Germany, Canada and Zimbabwe in the tournament’s group stage.
“We’ve shown in the past 12 months or so that we’re a competitive team now on the world stage and it’s up to us now to prove that we can take that next step and genuinely compete for medals,” coach Alen Stajcic said.
“We are in a very tough group with Canada being the reigning bronze medallists, Germany are a powerhouse and Zimbabwe are a bit of an unknown but having come through the African qualifiers we know they will be tough, powerful and unpredictable.”
With the continuing increase in depth in Australian women’s football, Stajcic admits it was a tough decision to arrive at the final 18-player squad.
“Probably for the first time in this team’s history we are leaving out players that are in good form who could genuinely play and start in this side.
“We’ve got to a point where there is a strong amount of depth in the team meaning good players miss out.”
The side will now head to Brazil where they will head into camp and play their final match in the lead-up to the Games against host nation Brazil on July 24.
“We are going to have a long preparation in Brazil and playing games is an important component of that. We are very fortunate to get the chance to play against a top ranked team and one of the favourites for a medal in host nation Brazil.”
The Australian side will be the first to compete in the green and gold at the 2016 Games when they take on Canada in Sao Paolo on August 3, two days before the opening ceremony.
They will then face world number two Germany in Sao Paolo (August 6) and world number 93 Zimbabwe in Salvador (August 9).
Lydia Williams (Houston Dash/Canberra United)
Mackenzie Arnold (Perth Glory)
Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane Roar)
Laura Alleway (Orlando Pride / Melbourne City)
Alanna Kennedy (WNY Flash / Sydney FC)
Stephanie Catley (Orlando Pride / Melbourne City)
Ellie Carpenter (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Elise Kellond-Knight (Potsdam Turbine)
Emily van Egmond (FFC Frankfurt)
Katrina Gorry (Brisbane Roar)
Tameka Butt (Brisbane Roar)
Caitlin Foord (Perth Glory)
Chloe Logarzo (Eskilstuna United / Newcastle Jets)
Lisa De Vanna (Melbourne City)
Michelle Heyman (Canberra United)
Kyah Simon (Boston Breakers / Sydney FC)
Samantha Kerr (Sky Blue FC / Perth Glory)
Larissa Crummer (Melbourne City)