26/02/2024

Holly McNamara, who has had a strong start to the A-League Women season, training at Melbourne City. Photo Credit: Melbourne City/Twitter

After successfully advancing to the third round of Olympic qualifying, the Matildas will next be in action against Canada, as they travel to play two games on December 2 and 6 (AEDT).

It will mark the fourth and fifth times the two sides have played each other in the last 15 months, after Canada traveled to Australia in September 2022, winning both games (1-0 and 2-1), before Australia defeated the Canadians 4-0 in the group stage of the World Cup.

“We know plenty about Canada with some fierce battles over the past 18 months,” Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said.

“These final 180 minutes of the year against a nation that has already qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are the type of preparation matches that are invaluable for the players.

“Our selected squad continues to meld established performers with some new players that have impressed in their league form recently.

“The two matches will allow us to continue evolving our play heading into the final phase of Olympic Qualification and beyond against a challenging opponent. It is critical to our continued growth as a team and for the players to test ourselves against quality nations.” 

Gustavsson has named a 23-player squad for the two matches, with the return of Holly McNamara headlining the list.

McNamara last played for the Matildas at the 2022 Asian Cup in January of that year, and suffered an ACL injury less than a month later during an A-League Women game for Melbourne City. 

The City star will come into the Matildas camp with momentum, after scoring a hat-trick in City’s 4-3 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers on November 12, with two games against Perth Glory (19th) and Sydney FC (26th) to add to her goal scoring tally for the current season.

Charlie Rule earned a full call-up after being a train on player during the recent Olympic qualifiers in Perth, while Aivi Luik makes a return to the squad after recovering from an injury which kept her out of the qualifiers.

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The other 20 players of the 23 player squad selected all participated in the Olympic qualifiers in Perth, with two players who were part of that squad not selected.

Cortnee Vine suffered an injury during the Matildas 8-0 victory against the Philippines, and will see her first action since against Adelaide United on November 19, with Alex Chidiac being the other player not selected.

Chidiac, who is currently playing for Tigres UANL in Liga MX Feminil, has been the subject of regular discussion amongst fans about how Gustavsson has used her in the Australian set-up.

Back in February after a victory over Jamaica in the Cup of Nations, Gustavsson said that “Chids deserves to start based on performance. I think we all agree on that in here.”

Since that game at a national team level, Chidiac has played a combined 133 minutes (plus stoppage time) in 13 games, 65 of those minutes coming in her only start against Iran, and she did not not play a minute in six of those games. 

Gustavsson described the absence of Chidiac from this squad as “performance” based and not having room for her in this camp because of that.

“It’s based on performances in the last camp and the limited minutes she’s had in clubland,” he said.

With Chidiac also not seeing much game time at Tigres, and only 18 players allowed to be selected for the Olympics, is her time in the national team up until after the Olympics, or will she find a way to impress Gustavsson enough to earn a spot in Paris if Australia qualify?

The 23-player squad

Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Tegan Micah, Lydia Williams

Backs: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Charlotte Grant, Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Aivi Luik, Courtney Nevin, and Clare Polkinghorne 

Midfielders: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Mary Fowler, Katrina Gorry, Amy Sayer, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, and Tameka Yallop

Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr, Holly McNamara, Hayley Raso, and Charlie Rule

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