History of the Westfield Matildas (Pt 2)

The Westfield Matildas pose for a team photo at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
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The Olympics have been key to the development of the Westfield Matildas over the years.

Because the tournament allows the full national team to play (as opposed to U-23s in mens), the Olympics have proved beneficial in and around World Cup and Asian Cup cycles.

Here's a look back at Australia's Olympics history.

History of the Westfield Matildas (Pt 1)

QUALIFICATION MECHANISM

Women’s football was introduced to the Olympic Games for the 1996 tournament, where only the top eight teams of the 1995 World Cup qualified (Australia had finished 12th in the 1995 World Cup).

The Westfield Matildas qualified for the Olympic Games finals tournaments in 2000 (as host nation), and again in 2004 as winner of the Oceania qualifying tournament.

Matildas 2000.

With Australia’s entry into the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006, qualification for the Olympic Games was made much more challenging, especially for the 2008 Games where hosts and AFC member China were credited with an automatic spot.

Similar to the improvement shown over its first few World Cups, the Australian women’s team commenced its Olympic Games experience modestly, losing two and drawing one at Sydney 2000.

2000 IN SYDNEY

As hosts, Australia were joined at the Games by the seven best teams from the 1999 Women's World Cup.

The Matildas were grouped with Germany, Brazil and Sweden while China, Norway, the USA and Nigeria made up the other group.

Matildas 2000.

In their opening game, played at Canberra's Bruce Stadium, Australia went down 3-0 to eventual bronze medallists Germany.

Their second outing against Sweden at Sydney Football Stadium was far more impressive with Cheryl Salisbury giving the hosts a 1-0 lead after 57 minutes before a penalty nine minutes later squared the ledger.

The Matildas also took the lead in their final group game against Brazil with Sunni Hughes netting after half an hour, only for Brazil to score two quick second-half goals to run out 2-1 winners.

2004 IN ATHENS

There was marked improvement in the 2004 tournament, where a 1-0 win over host nation Greece and a 1-1 draw with powerhouses USA enabled the Aussies to reach the quarter-finals stage for the first time in a major women's international tournament.

A young Marta scored the winner for Brazil in the group opener but rising star Heather Garriock netted Australia’s winner over the hosts Greece.

Heather Garriock.

Joey Peters’ late equaliser over the US, sending them through to the quarter finals, on a historic day for Australia’s women.

On the back of that result, hopes were high. But against Sweden, the run ended.

Future star Lisa De Vanna bagged Australia’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to the Swedes in the last eight.

2016 IN RIO

Following a 12-year absence, the Westfield Matildas qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after going through undefeated in the qualifying campaign in Japan in March 2016.

After a disappointing 2-0 loss to Canada in their first group game, the Matildas bounced back to lead eventual gold medallists Germany 2-0 in their second match with goals to Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord.

Sam Kerr celebrates scoring against Germany at the Rio Games.

Unfortunately Germany scored just before half-time and again in the 88thminute to secure a 2-2 draw.

In their final group game, Australia made a statement, thumping Zimbabwe 6-1 with substitute Michelle Heyman grabbing a brace and Lisa de Vanna, Clare Polkinghorne, Alanna Kennedy and Kyah Simon also on the scoresheet.

That result fed Australia into a quarter-final against hosts Brazil and in front of 52-000 fans at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, the two sides played out a goal-less 120 minutes, before Brazil prevailed 7-6 on penalties.