Head Coach Alen Stajcic has rated the Westfield Matildas’ 2016 Olympic qualification as one of the ‘most historic moments in football’ for Australia’s national women’s team.
Since taking charge of the Westfield Matildas, Stajcic has masterminded a period that has seen them reach the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final, Quarter Finals of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and now Olympic qualification.
Not generally one to let emotions get the better of him, even Stajcic could not help visibly expressing a sense of joy and pride as he struggled to find the words to sum up and describe the Westfield Matildas’ achievement.
Heading into the match knowing how close the Westfield Matildas were to qualifying and needing just a point against DPR Korea coupled with the gruelling schedule of matches, Stajcic lauded his players’ mental application and mettle to secure what was a famous win.
“It’s probably one of the most historic moments in football for this team,” said Stajcic.
“There was so much pressure before the game with the build up and the players were quite tense and nervous before the match and really wanting to get it done.
“So for them to perform like they did and give every little bit of effort and stamina that they had, together with the hard work and perseverance to keep DPR Korea out, was amazing.
“I think all of Australia should be really proud of this playing group because it was an amazing effort to win that match and shows how much heart and spirit this group has and we should all be proud of them.”
“Today wasn’t pretty football from us but it was effective and to put it all together with everything we’ve done here over the past week is just an amazing effort.”
Ask Stajcic and the journey towards Olympic qualification started as soon as the Westfield Matildas were knocked out of the FIFA Women’s World Cup by Japan in the Quarter Finals.
The Women’s World Cup set a benchmark of where Stajcic knew the Westfield Matildas had to get to in order to be a contender in a highly competitive Olympic qualifying tournament that pitted the six best Asian nations against each other with each team playing five games in ten days.
A host of training camps ensued after the World Cup from October including a thorough month long program before the squad departed for Osaka.
Stajcic says the preparation certainly gave the Westfield Matildas every chance to qualify as it braced for what challenges lay ahead both physically and mentally.
In reflecting on what the Westfield Matildas had achieved, which comprised four straight wins and included defeating the third and sixth ranked teams in the world, Stajcic also paid tribute to the other players that had been part of the lead up to the tournament but had not made the final squad for one reason or another.
“I’d like to thank all of the players that were part of our preparation,” said Stajcic.
“We had three or four key players who got injuries and had to miss this tournament, so thanks to them and all of the players who participated along the way.”
The only thing missing now is a tournament clean sweep which Stajcic and the Westfield Matildas have the chance to do against China, the other team to qualify for Rio, on Wednesday night.
The main objective may have been attained but you can bet your bottom dollar Stajcic will want to finish off the tournament and put in a good showing just as much as the previous four.
The Westfield Matildas’ match against China on Wednesday night will be LIVE on 7mate (kick-off 9.35pm AEDT).