One of Australia’s most highly anticipated teams for Tokyo 2020 was announced on Wednesday, with Tony Gustavsson finalising his 18-member Matildas squad.
It’s not a side without Olympic experience with 12 players returning after quarter-finals heartbreak in 2016. Six others will make their Olympic debut with youngsters Kyra Cooney-Cross and Mary Fowler two of the new faces that Australian fans will be excited to see on the world stage.
Captained by Sam Kerr, there are stars from the European leagues and Australia’s premier competition the W-League that look to claim Olympic Gold. Kerr’s 2020/2021 season with Chelsea was a fruitful one, claiming the Women’s Super League title along with Golden boot.
Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Lydia Williams helped earn Arsenal a spot in the UEFA Women’s Champions League next season, whilst closer to home Kyra Cooney-Cross scored the winner for Melbourne Victory in the W-League final in April.
The team announcement has been 15-months in the making, after the Matildas qualified for the Olympics in March 2020, a lot has happened to the team since qualifying, after a year apart the side came together in April, looking very different with new head coach Tony Gustavsson at the helm and several players making their debut in the green and gold.
Ian Chesterman, Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic Team admired the resilience of the Matilda’s over the past year.
“Congratulations to the 18 players selected for the Australian Olympic Team,” Mr Chesterman said.
“The Matildas have shown they are a world-class team and we will be thrilled to see them proudly wear the green and gold in Tokyo.
“This team has shown incredible resilience and a tight bond to make it through the trials of the pandemic and I know they’re up for the challenge in Tokyo.
“While 18 athletes are achieving a fantastic Olympic milestone today, I also want to thank the countless family members, friends, supporters, coaches and teammates who have helped these athletes grow from junior footballers to Olympic athletes ready to compete on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
“The Matildas are out to make an impact in Tokyo and I know millions of Australian fans will be cheering them on from back home.”
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The Matildas will have a difficult group stage to make it through in the quest for an Olympic Gold Medal, after facing New Zealand on July 21, they’ll face reigning Olympic silver medallists Sweden and then finally they’ll be taking on World Champions and world number one USA.
Captain Same Kerr emphasised that the team has become like a family in the past four years and that will help fuel them even further in Tokyo.
“It’s a massive honour. Any time I pull on the jumper, I feel really proud, but to call yourself an Olympian is something special,” Kerr said.
“Not many people get to do it so I’m really proud to be an Olympian and to represent Australia. I can’t wait!
“It’s different to say a World Cup just for the fact that it is the Olympics. It’s a little bit prestigious, it’s just overwhelming. I grew up watching the Olympics like everyone else so to be here, for my second time, is a dream come true.
“The Matildas are a really, really exciting team. We’re fast, we’re strong, we’re fit, and I feel like the rest of the world knows that about us. It’s really about using our strengths to the best of our abilities.
“Off the field what people don’t see is we’re a really close-knit family. We all have each other’s back and we can’t wait to go and represent Australia in the best way possible.
“I’m really proud and really excited for this opportunity, it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted.”
18-year-old Mary Fowler might only have six games to her name for the Matildas but after recent friendlies against she was a name everyone expected in the finalised squad.
Everyone except perhaps for Fowler who described the emotional reaction she had upon hearing the selection news.
“It feels absolutely amazing to be selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” Fowler said.
“As a kid, it’s the one dream I had in sports so it feels amazing.
“The moment I found out I was going to Tokyo; I was in a meeting with the coaches, and I don’t really expect myself to react overly over the top, to be so emotional.
“But when I got told, and I got handed a piece of paper saying I’m going, everything just clicked. And then I just started tearing up. I was a bit taken aback because this doesn’t usually happen, but it was just a really good feeling.”
New to the top job Gustavsson has taken his time over the four friendlies as head coach to shape the team and remains confident that despite the difficult decisions he’s got a balanced squad on his hands.
“First I want to thank every single player out there that fought to get a spot, and they’ve done it so that I had a difficult decision to make,” Gustavsson said.
“That’s how it should be for a head coach and that’s also how we get better.
“The players that have been selected, it’s a team with a lot of passion and pride to now represent the country. It’s a spirit within the team that I love.
“It’s a team and a roster that is very attacking balanced, but also with a lot of versatility. There’s a lot of players in this roster that can play multiple positions with which is exactly what you need in an Olympic tournament.
“On the pitch, you are definitely going to see a brave team that’s going to take a step forward. It’s going to be an attacking mindset on the field.
“Off the field, this team is always going to represent in the best way possible. It’s an authentic team that is really true to who they are and very, very proud to represent their country.”
|Lydia Williams||Goalkeeper||2nd (2016)|
|Alanna Kennedy||Defender||2nd (2016)|
|Steph Catley||Defender||2nd (2016)|
|Clare Polkinghorne||Defender||2nd (2016)|
|Ellie Carpenter||Defender||2nd (2016)|
|Emily van Egmond||Midfielder||2nd (2016)|
|Elise Kellond-Knight||Midfielder||2nd (2016)|
|Tameka Yallop||Midfielder||2nd (2016)|
|Chloe Logarzo||Midfielder||2nd (2016)|
|Sam Kerr||Forward||2nd (2016)|
|Caitlin Foord||Forward||2nd (2016)|
|Kyah Simon||Forward||2nd (2016)|
Four additional players will travel to Tokyo as reserves, if there is an injury or unforeseen circumstances they can be called up to the team. Should Mackenzie Arnold, Laura Brock, Charlotte Grant or Courtney Nevin receive the call up they would earn their place in the Australian Olympic Team at that time.
The Football competition will run from 21 July – 7 August at venues around Japan.