Emily van Egmond in a training session with Sam Kerr during the 2023 Cup of Nations. Photo Credit: Football Australia

The Matildas will be aiming to qualify for the Paris Olympics in a two-leg home and away series against Uzbekistan on February 24 (away) and 28 (home).

Matildas midfielder Emily van Egmond thinks that Uzbekistan will be a “tough challenge”.

“Japan only beat them 2-0 so we’re expecting a compact team, probably sitting in a low block to make it difficult for us to break through.

“In the past we’ve focused on what we can do and what we can control and that’s what we’ll be doing going into these two games.

“They’re extremely important for us to try and get the results to qualify for Paris.”

When asked about the return of Michelle Heyman and Chloe Logarzo to the squad, van Egmond described it as fantastic.

“I think it’s fantastic to see the two of them return. Familiar faces for some of us as well, so it’s nice.

“They’ve obviously been doing well in their club environments and I think it’s great to see hard work and great performances are paying off for them.”

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van Egmond returned to Australia for a guest stint with the Newcastle Jets after the end of the 2023 NWSL season, before returning to the USA for 2024 pre-season.

She believes that one of the big reasons for the Jets success this season compared to in the past came down to their youth development.

“It was a young youthful squad and a lot of girls who probably haven’t ever had that opportunity to play at that level coming in and for them to be there and be part of it, it was fantastic to see.

“The young guns like Emma Dundas who’s 16, I think that just speaks volumes of what they’re doing at Newcastle with their academies and their programs from junior football all the way to the W-League side.

“It was a nice little put together team and good camaraderie. I think Newcastle is always the hard working team no matter what and it’s just pleasing to see they’re getting some results for that now.

“I check in from time to time and I’m hoping they can go all the way this year.”

When the NWSL season starts, van Egmond will be joined by fellow Australian Kaitlyn Torpey, and she is excited at getting to meet her new teammate during the Matildas camp.

“It’s her first Matildas call-up and senior national team camp for her, and I’m excited to get to know her and a little bit more about how she is as a player and a person and link up with her here in San Diego,” van Egmond said.

The Matildas midfielder also recognises that the move to San Diego Wave will be a big experience for Torpey.

“[It will be] her first professional overseas club, which is a big move and she’s coming to a great club and organisation here and to work under a fabulous coaching staff [which is] headed by Casey Stoney.

“I’m sure she’s going to enjoy it and learn an abundance.”

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