Preview: Matildas v Japan

The stage is set and the time has arrived for the Westfield Matildas to launch their 2016 Olympic qualifying mission. Bring it on!



The Westfield Matildas trained at Kincho Stadium earlier tonight (Sunday), their final session before taking on Japan in their opening match of the 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament where a top two finish in the group will see Australia qualify for August’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

While there is already enough to play for, the Westfield Matildas have added incentive to defeat the team that beat them in the Final of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2014 and also knocked them out of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup at the Quarter Final stage.

Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic says the team has addressed the areas that let them down in that Quarter Final ever since preparations began for this tournament back in October last year.

“We’ve certainly tried to rectify the parts that we didn’t do so well in when we played them at the World Cup last year…we have worked hard on our defending and are certainly going to present a positive and aggressive approach against Japan,” said Stajcic.

“We played them twice at the 2014 Asian Cup and on the first occasion we were probably the better team. We kept the ball better and our defending on that day was superb and we put a lot of pressure on them.

Steph Catley was tireless in defence against Japan's technical brilliance.

“We know how good they (Japan) are technically and we have the highest of respect for them but we don’t fear them and we have to back ourselves to know that if we do our job and do it well that will put pressure on them. I’m sure if we execute our game plan we’ll be tough to beat.”

On the eve of a tournament that will see the six participating nations face the arduous task of playing five games in 10 days, Stajcic is buoyant about his players’ mental and physical condition as they look to give themselves the best chance to qualify for Rio.

“They’ve gone to a new level,” said Stajcic of his squad.

“The awareness, concentration and focus, it is just rife throughout the team now so they just can’t wait to get on the pitch.

The only disruption for Stajcic since the squad arrived in Japan to finalise preparations has been the late withdrawal of midfielder Aivi Luik due to a quad strain, her place in the squad taken by versatile 15 year old Ellie Carpenter.

The magnitude of the challenge in front of the Westfield Matildas to qualify is not lost on Stajcic. But belief has been a word that has resonated throughout the Westfield Matildas’ build up to this tournament and he says the team is determined to break the drought and become the first Australian football team to compete at the Olympics since 2004.

“To give football another footstep in the mainstream of the Australian public and media we really need to qualify and show off our assets on a world stage and a mainstream stage like the Olympics,” said Stajcic.

“We want to be on that stage.”

The Westfield Matildas’ match against Japan tomorrow night (Monday 29 February) will be shown LIVE on 7mate (kick-off 7.35pm local time, 9.35pm AEDT).

The other opening day matches sees DPR Korea up against Korea Republic and China taking on Vietnam.

Westfield Matildas squad
1.Lydia Williams (gk), 2.Ashleigh Sykes, 3.Caitlin Cooper, 4.Clare Polkinghorne, 5.Laura Alleway, 6.Chloe Logarzo, 7.Steph Catley, 8.Elise Kellond-Knight, 9.Caitlin.Foord, 10.Emily van Egmond, 11.Lisa De Vanna, 12.Casey Dumont (gk), 13.Tameka.Butt, 14.Alanna Kennedy, 15.Emily Gielnik, 16.Michelle Heyman, 17.Kyah Simon, 18.Mackenzie Arnold (gk), 19.Katrina Gorry, 20.Ellie Carpenter

Westfield Matildas record v Japan
Played 23; Won 5, Drawn 8, Lost 10

Last three meetings
27/06/2015 Westfield Matildas 0-1 Japan (FIFA Women’s World Cup Quarter Final)
25/05/2014 Japan 1-0 Westfield Matildas (AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final)
14/05/2014 Westfield Matildas 2-2 Japan (AFC Women’s Asian Cup)

Match Information

Westfield Matildas v Japan
Monday 29 February 2016
Kincho Stadium, Osaka
Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally 9:30pm AEDT on 7mate

Westfield Matildas v Vietnam
Wednesday 2 March 2016
Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-Off: 4:35pm local time (6:35pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally 6:30pm AEDT on 7mate

Korea Republic v Westfield Matildas
Friday 4 March 2016
Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally 9:30pm AEDT on 7mate

DPR Korea v Westfield Matildas
Monday 7 March 2016
Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally 9:30pm AEDT on 7mate

Westfield Matildas v China P.R.
Wednesday 9 March 2016
Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally 9:30pm AEDT on 7mate

The Westfield Matildas Olympic Games Qualifiers will be showcased LIVE on 7mate.