Coach Alen Stajcic has praised the spirit within the Westfield Matildas squad after they finished top of the standings at Asia’s qualifying tournament for the Rio Olympics.
A late long range stunner from Emily van Egmond secured a 1-1 draw with China in the Matildas’ final match of the tournament in Osaka on Wednesday night.
Stajcic made six changes to the team that triumphed over DPR Korea to secure a spot at the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, with the coach proud of the Matildas late fight back.
“Tonight’s game was tough. Obviously both teams were coming off a very big high and then having to play another game is maybe a little bit emotionally tough but both teams still ran the game out,” said Stajcic.
“We made a few changes in the team tonight and tried to mix things up a bit and give a few younger players a run.
“We were a little bit disjointed at times but I still think we tried to play good football and we ended up with an equaliser which I think was a fair result.”
Both sides finished the 10-day tournament unbeaten to claim the top two spots in the conference, with the Aussies finishing two points clear after notching four wins and a draw.
Van Egmond’s brilliant strike five minutes from full-time was her third goal in Japan and cancelled out Ma Xiaoxu’s 16th minute opener on a wet Nagai Stadium pitch.
Stajcic admitted it was always going to be a test of his players’ mettle after the jubilation that came two nights earlier when the Matildas recorded their fourth straight win to cement their Olympic berth.
“Knowing that we’d qualified and worked so hard to get to the Olympics and then having to come back two days later when you have all of the accumulated fatigue and then having to play another game when you know it’s a little bit of a dead rubber is a hard thing, but I still thought the players ran and fought to the end,” said Stajcic.
“It was a little bit different in terms of motivation compared to the rest of the tournament.
“We did ok in patches and learnt a lot today about some of our players which is the most important thing going forward.”