The Matildas squad training during the October 2022 International Window. Photo Credit: Football Australia

The Matildas have locked in a venue for the home leg of its two match series against Uzbekistan in February.

Football Australia announced that Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium will host what could be a do or die game as the Matildas aim to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris.

“In 2023 we witnessed the special connection between the CommBank Matildas and the Australian public with 11 straight sold-out home matches and record broadcast audiences,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said.

“We are confident that we will build on that connection in 2024 and this fan fervour will be a vital factor when we welcome the team for the first home international of the year against Uzbekistan.

“The fierce backing of Victorians was evident in 2023 and we are looking forward to seeing them, and fans from across the country, come out again in full force in another pivotal match for the CommBank Matildas.

“We are pleased to once again have the Victorian Government as a partner through its tourism and events company, Visit Victoria, as they continue to host world-class football events providing Australians with the opportunity to participate in historic moments.”

The away leg will be played in Uzbekistan on the 24th, before the Aussies return home to seal the deal and book a spot in the 2024 Olympics.

The Matildas played at Marvel Stadium in 2023, prior to the Women’s World Cup as they hosted France in a friendly, winning 1-0.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson indicated the side will not be taking Uzbekistan lightly.

“To have progressed to the final round of the Asian Qualifiers demonstrates the improvement of Uzbekistan’s program and we will be approaching this match with the seriousness it deserves as they have beaten out quality nations to this stage,” Gustavsson said.

“For our team, this is an opportunity to continue adding to the significant legacy they have already built and to provide another moment where we can unite as a nation.

“This will be another massive occasion and in the past 12 months we have seen Australians from across the nation show up to be the vital 12th player in all the biggest moments. I am really looking forward to having that same amazing atmosphere and crowd to power the team to Paris.

“Qualifying for a third straight Women’s Olympic Football Tournament would be another piece of history for this group of players and I know every member of the team will be doing everything possible to be prepared.”

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Why Marvel?

With a busy slate of concerts planned for all the major stadiums as Taylor Swift and Pink tour Australia, venue options are incredibly limited, with ideal venues like Accor Stadium in Sydney ruled out due to Taylor Swift.

The two other ideal venues which would have been available are Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

Suncorp has had pitch quality issues already this season which have impacted Brisbane Roar games.

Allianz Stadium has A-Leagues games scheduled for the 17th and the 24th, with Pink finishing up at that stadium on the 10th, so there could also be pitch quality concerns there with a high level of traffic expected in January and March.

Pink does play at Marvel Stadium on February 24, which will leave less than 96 hours to turn the venue over from a concert to a suitable venue for football.

What impact this will have on the quality of the pitch is yet to be known, but past history at an A-Leagues level indicates this does not bode well.

Ultimately, there was no great option for Football Australia given the summer slate of concerts, but hopefully the pitch holds up and the Matildas get to play on the quality of surface they deserve.

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