Mackenzie Arnold in training during the Olympic Qualifiers in Perth. Photo Credit: Rachel Bach/Football Australia

Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold is back in the mix after time off since November and is looking to start 2024 with a bang.

The Matildas will host Uzbekistan at Marvel Stadium on 28 February, but not before they travel for the away leg of their Paris Olympic qualifier.

Arnold will celebrate her 30th birthday on Sunday and will hopefully celebrate it on a good note getting the win and one step closer to the Olympics.

The Matildas have only played Uzbekistan once before — a 10-0 Beijing Olympics preliminary-qualifying win in 2007.

“It’s so crazy to think that it was only 12 months ago that I was playing in the Cup of Nations and just trying to take my chance,” she said.

“I didn’t really know what was going to follow from that. To think this is where I am now 12 months later, and to see what we’ve done and what we’ve achieved as a team, to be a part of that is something that I’m so grateful for and something that I’ll hold close to my heart for a time.

“I’ve grown a lot in my confidence and my belief. I feel like I belong now.”

Arnold was announced as captain for her domestic club West Ham United in the FA Women’s Super League who she’d joined with in 2020.

The Matildas star is looking to bring those qualities over into the international scene.

“It’s definitely a new challenge, one that I haven’t had to focus on too much before, but I’ve always wanted to be a leader and I feel like the last four years at West Ham have been leading toward that,” she said.

“I feel like I’m someone now that the girls can look up to, and I love playing that role for them.”

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Arnold’s leadership title at her domestic club has helped her stand up in the Matildas backline. Her recent performances in the green and gold have put her name on the map as one of the Matildas to rise up when needed.

“The last couple of tournaments I’ve played with them (Australia’s defenders) have been really good,” she said.

“We’ve known each other for years so you’d hope that we could all play together.”

Arnold said the players needed to remain focused when facing Uzbekistan as they expect for the ball to be down the other end more.

“It’s a little bit easier to lose concentration in these kind of games if you don’t see too much of the ball, a goalkeeper especially,” she said.

“You never really know what can happen in these games, especially against a team we haven’t played before.”

The Matildas will face Uzbekistan on Saturday 24 February with kick off at 8:00pm AEDT.

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