Schedule out for Matildas’ Olympic Games qualifiers

The Westfield Matildas will open their Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 – Final Qualification Round with a blockbuster against world number four ranked and reigning AFC Women’s Asian Cup Champions Japan on 29 February at Kincho Stadium in Osaka.

The Westfield Matildas’ Road to Rio became clearer after the schedule for the final qualification round was released by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

With six countries vying for just two spots at the 2016 Olympic Games, the qualifying tournament to be held in the Japanese city of Osaka from 29 February until 9 March 2016 will see each team faced with the extraordinarily tough task of playing five matches in the space of ten days.

For the Westfield Matildas it doesn’t get much tougher than a first up assignment against Japan, the team that knocked them out at the Quarter Final stage at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup before finishing runners up to eventual champions USA.

However, Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic is relishing the challenge and believes it is the ideal time to take on one of Australia’s biggest rivals.

Coach Alen Stajcic imparts some tactical advice on the squad.

“I guess there is no better time to play Japan than first up when we’re fresh and they’re fresh,” said Stajcic.

“We’ve played them three times in the last 18 months and those results were a draw and two narrow losses so we know we’re in the ball park to match them, we’ve just got to do it on the day.”

“It’s a bit like the World Cup. It’s almost like a Group of Death trying to qualify and we’ve got our blockbuster first up.”

The Westfield Matildas and host nation Japan are joined by DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Vietnam and China P.R. for the round robin tournament which will see the top two countries at the end of the competition book a spot at the Rio Olympics.

The Westfield Matildas (9th) are currently the third highest ranked nation amongst the qualification group, behind Japan (4th) and DPR Korea (6th) but ahead of China P.R. (15th), Korea Republic (17th) and Vietnam (33rd).

Matildas v England

After taking on the might of Japan, the Westfield Matildas will then face Vietnam two days later, followed by Korea Republic and three time AFC Women’s Asian Cup winners DPR Korea before their final match against China P.R. on 9 March.

“There’s no use wishing for things,” said Stajcic on whether there was a preferred schedule. “At the end of the day we’ve got five tough games and there are no easy opponents.”

“Four teams made it through to the knockout stages of the World Cup and then you throw in DPR Korea who weren’t at the World Cup because of their drug suspension, so there is no easy order but it’s probably good to get Japan first up because it gives everyone focus and concentration for the path ahead.

“There’s no such thing as a good draw when you’re playing a schedule like that so you’ve just got to take it as it comes.”

The short turnaround between matches is certain to put added emphasis on squad depth while also testing the physical and mental fitness and strength of the players.

Matildas players celebrate a goal against Nigeria at the 2015 FIFA World Cup.

Considering the congestion and demands of the schedule, Stajcic is well aware that how he manages the squad and the condition the players are in will be crucial.

“Execution in each game is going to be very important but squad depth is probably the most important,” said Stajcic.

“We can only take 20 players, three of which are goalkeepers, so those 17 outfield players are going to have to be fully fit, we’re going to have to have versatility and mobility within the team and they’re obviously going to have to be ready to go and ready to back up for the hard schedule.”

“It could come down to the last minute of the last game so we need to make sure we’re fit enough mentally and physically to be up for the challenge all the way through.”

However you look at it, the challenge in front of the Westfield Matildas to qualify for the Olympics is a momentous one, and if they manage to make it through they will certainly have earned it.

The Westfield Matildas kicked off their Women's World Cup campaign in Winnipeg.

Having just arrived back from a successful trip to Korea Republic where they defeated the hosts 1-0 on Sunday, Stajcic says the squad is in a good place leading up to the qualifiers.

“The first half against Korea Republic was probably the best football we’ve played since the first half against the USA at the World Cup,” said Stajcic.

“That gives me a lot of confidence to know that we can bounce back. The China tour wasn’t our best football but in Korea Republic we definitely got back to the levels of the World Cup so it’s up to us to push on ahead with the W-League and then a good preparation before we go, so there are no excuses and we’ve got a competition schedule ahead to get us match fit and ready to go.”

At this stage, the Westfield Matildas’ lead up to the Olympic qualifying tournament will consist of five training camps – one in December, two in January and three in February before the squad departs for Osaka on 22 February.

Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 – Final Qualification Round

Group A


DPR Korea

Westfield Matildas

China P.R.

Korea Republic


Westfield Matildas v Japan

Monday 29 February 2016

Kincho Stadium, Osaka

Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)

Westfield Matildas v Vietnam

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka

Kick-Off: 4:35pm local time (6:35pm AEDT)

Korea Republic v Westfield Matildas

Friday 4 March 2016

Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka

Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)

DPR Korea v Westfield Matildas

Monday 7 March 2016

Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka

Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)

Westfield Matildas v China P.R.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka

Kick-Off: 7:35pm local time (9:35pm AEDT)