Two Sky Blues In Olympic Qualifying Squad

Sydney FC's Alanna Kennedy and Kyah Simon have been selected in a 20-player squad for the Westfield Matildas 2016 Olympic Qualifying tournament in Japan, named by Head Coach Alen Stajcic on Wednesday.

The squad will depart on Monday morning for the upcoming Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 – Final Qualification Round to be held in Osaka, Japan from 29 February – 9 March, as Australia’s national women’s team attempts to feature in the Olympic Games for the first time since 2004.

Comprising the compulsory 17 outfield players and three goalkeepers, the squad will head to Osaka on Monday morning for what Stajcic has aptly dubbed a ‘mini World Cup’ where the Westfield Matildas will play five matches in 10 days with the top two nations at the end of the round robin format booking a place at Rio 2016.

Co-captain Lisa De Vanna is the only player in the squad who has competed at an Olympic Games, while there are five players – Caitlin Cooper, Emily Gielnik, Chloe Logarzo, Aivi Luik and goalkeeper Casey Dumont – who have been selected in this squad after not being part of the Westfield Matildas’ outfit that reached the Quarter Finals of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“Emily Gielnik had a good W-League season and has been impressive when she has come into camp adding a good bit of pace and power to our front line,” said Stajcic.

“Caitlin Cooper is another who has come into the squad and performed really well in our preparations, while Casey Dumont has come back from her knee reconstruction. She’s still got a bit of a way to go to regain full fitness but she has certainly worked hard over the past three months to get back into the squad.”

To give the Westfield Matildas the best chance of qualifying, Stajcic knows the importance of having a squad in peak physical condition given the gruelling schedule of matches they will face in Osaka.

“Our physical preparation needs to be at a high level and our players need to be capable of backing up every second day,” said Stajcic.

“It is the same for every team competing so we need a squad full of fit players and players who can carry a high workload. By game four or five it will be a war of attrition and come down to a bit of luck with injuries, but certainly the teams that are more resilient will give themselves a better chance to qualify.

“The players are building a resilience and a tolerance to the workload that we have given them in training, they are improving week to week and I’m sure it will hold us in good stead come the tournament.”

German based duo Elise Kellond-Knight and Emily van Egmond will join up with the squad in Osaka after their clubs in the Women’s Bundesliga play their first matches of the season this weekend.

“They are tracking well and working hard over there, and with the high level of Germany’s fitness and training regime I’m confident they’ll come into the squad fit and ready to go,” Stajcic said of Kellond-Knight and van Egmond.

Stajcic has used a number of training camps and the recent Westfield W-League season to monitor players in the lead up the qualifying tournament and admits it made the task of narrowing a list down to 20 a tough task.

“It was very difficult. It’s the first time we’ve had a major tournament in this time of the year so it added a lot of complexity to preparing and selecting the team,” said Stajcic.

“Having the W-League in between and still trying to manage the national team was a pretty big balancing act and I think credit should go to the players and the W-League clubs as well, we did a pretty good job navigating our way to not interfere too much but still being able to keep up the momentum of the national team.”

The only player Stajcic will not have at his disposal who has been an integral part of the current Westfield Matildas setup is Samantha Kerr, the dynamic forward unable to recover from a serious foot injury in time.

“We’ve been monitoring Sam’s recovery and she’s only been out of the moon boot for a couple of weeks so it was always going to be touch and go, but with the short turnaround between matches it was not worth taking the risk. Hopefully we qualify and she can put her hand up and be available for selection for Rio.”

The Westfield Matildas have not featured in the Olympics since 2004, the fact the Asian Football Confederation only receives two spots of the 12 making the task all the more difficult.

But Stajcic is buoyant about his team’s chances of qualifying and having drawn on the inspiration of some of Australia’s great past Olympic athletes as motivation in the lead up, he believes the Westfield Matildas can get the job done.

“It’s a massive challenge but at the same time it is really exciting and a great thrill,” said Stajcic.

“We’ve had some Olympians from different sports come and talk to the group and it certainly raises the hair on the back of your neck thinking about the reward at the end of the rainbow if we can get there.

“To make it to the Olympics would be a massive prize and massive boost for the team and the code. We know what’s at stake and the players and the staff are definitely working hard to get there.”

Clare Polkinghorne and De Vanna will again share the captaincy as they did at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada last year.

The Westfield Matildas’ first match of the qualifiers is a blockbuster against FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Finalists Japan on 29 February.

The Westfield Matildas Olympic Games Qualifiers will be showcased LIVE on 7mate starting on February 29.

 

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

Lydia Williams (gk) - 13/05/1988 - Goalkeeper - Canberra United - 49 (0)

Larissa Crummer - 10/01/1996 - Forward - Melbourne City FC - 9 (1)

Caitlin Cooper - 12/02/1988 - Defender - Western Sydney Wanderers FC - 3 (1)

Clare Polkinghorne - 1/02/1989 - Defender - Brisbane Roar - 80 (5)

Laura Alleway - 28/11/1989 - Defender - Melbourne City FC - 39 (2)

Chloe Logarzo - 22/12/1994 - Midfielder - Newcastle Jets - 3 (0)

Stephanie Catley - 26/01/1994 - Defender - Melbourne City FC - 42 (2)

Elise Kellond-Knight - 10/08/1990 - Midfielder - Potsdam FC, Germany - 64 (1)

Caitlin Foord - 11/11/1994 - Forward - Perth Glory - 28 (3)

Emily van Egmond - 12/07/1993 - Midfielder - FFC Frankfurt, Germany - 47 (11)

Lisa De Vanna - 14/11/1984 - Forward - Melbourne City FC - 106 (37)

Casey Dumont (gk) - 25/01/1992 - Goalkeeper - - - 1 (0)

Tameka Butt - 16/06/1991 - Midfielder - Brisbane Roar - 52 (7)

Alanna Kennedy - 21/01/1995 - Defender - Sydney FC - 37 (0)

Emily Gielnik - 13/05/1992 - Forward - Brisbane Roar - 7 (0)

Michelle Heyman - 4/07/1988 - Forward - Canberra United - 41 (15)

Kyah Simon - 25/06/1991 - Forward - Sydney FC - 58 (15)

Mackenzie Arnold (gk) - 25/02/1994 - Goalkeeper - Perth Glory - 7 (0)

Katrina Gorry - 13/08/1992 - Midfielder - Brisbane Roar - 38 (11)

Aivi Luik - 18/03/1985 - Midfielder - Melbourne City FC - 16 (0)

 

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

Westfield Matildas Schedule

 

Group A

Japan

DPR Korea

Westfield Matildas

China P.R.

Korea Republic

Vietnam

 

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