Matildas Announce Strong Olympic Squad – But Not Without Risks

by Ben Gilby

Australia announced their squad for the Olympic Games early this morning, and it is one filled with players plying their trade in some of the biggest clubs in women’s football including FA Women’s Super League title and Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr (pictured above, supplied by Football Australia), Lyon star defender Ellie Carpenter, UEFA Women’s Champions League bound Arsenal trio, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Lydia Williams, as well as W-League Grand Final match winner Kyra Cooney-Cross. 

The 18 players selected are a mix of youth and experience, with three players recording over 100 international appearances for Australia.  Teenagers Cooney-Cross and Mary Fowler join Teagan Micah, Emily Gielnik, Hayley Raso and veteran Aivi Luik as the six Olympic debutants.  

The squad, which looks very strong on paper does not come without a few potentially risky selections.

Tony Gustavsson has called up both Elise Kellond-Knight and Chloe Logarzo, both of whom have been side-lined for injuries for a lengthy period, and who have not played for the Matildas since the pandemic. First choice goalkeeper Lydia Williams has been out for much of last season with Arsenal. Teagan Micah has also come in as goalkeeper after impressive against Sweden in the Matildas’ most recent friendly with long time second choice goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold of West Ham United named as a travelling reserve. Another of the travelling reserves is young South Australian star Charli Grant, who has yet to make her international debut despite being called up for the most recent friendlies.

Whilst the return of Logarzo and Kellond-Knight is a risk, it is not a surprise. Speaking at his press conference prior to the friendlies with Denmark and Sweden, head coach Tony Gustavsson told me that, although Logarzo was not ready for those two games he was in “constant contact with her” in order for there to be an opportunity to take the former Bristol City player to Tokyo, such is her massive importance to the Matildas. Equally, Gustavsson admitted selecting Kellond-Knight for the Scandinavian friendlies despite knowing she wasn’t yet fit to play as he wanted to have a good look at her in training.

The Matildas qualified for the Olympics in March 2020, with Emily van Egmond and Sam Kerr leading the Australian charge during the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers.  They eventually clinched their their ticket to Tokyo away from home with victory in against Vietnam just prior to the outbreak of coronavirus. 

The Matildas open their campaign on 21 July against New Zealand before meeting world number five and reigning Olympic silver medallists Sweden, and finishing the group stage against reigning World Champions and world number one USA.

Captain Sam Kerr explained that leading the team at an Olympics is a special feeling.

“It’s a massive honour,” Kerr said. “Any time I pull on the jumper, I feel really proud, but to call yourself an Olympian is something special. Not many people get to do it so I’m really proud to be an Olympian and to represent Australia. I can’t wait!

“It’s different to say a World Cup just for the fact that it is the Olympics. It’s a little bit prestigious, it’s just overwhelming. I grew up watching the Olympics like everyone else so to be here, for my second time, is a dream come true.

“The Matildas are a really, really exciting team. We’re fast, we’re strong, we’re fit, and I feel like the rest of the world knows that about us. It’s really about using our strengths to the best of our abilities. Off the field what people don’t see is we’re a really close-knit family.  We all have each other’s back and we can’t wait to go and represent Australia in the best way possible.

“I’m really proud and really excited for this opportunity, it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted.”

Above: 18 year-old Mary Fowler – a dream call up for the Olympic Games. Photo Supplied By: Football Australia

At just 18, debutant Mary Fowler is the youngest on the team.

“It feels absolutely amazing to be selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” Fowler said. “As a kid, it’s the one dream I had in sports so it feels amazing.

“The moment I found out I was going to Tokyo; I was in a meeting with the coaches, and I don’t really expect myself to react overly over the top, to be so emotional.

“But when I got told, and I got handed a piece of paper saying I’m going, everything just clicked. And then I just started tearing up. I was a bit taken aback because this doesn’t usually happen, but it was just a really good feeling.”

Coach Tony Gustavsson said the strength of the squad made today’s selection very difficult.

“First I want to thank every single player out there that fought to get a spot, and they’ve done it so that I had a difficult decision to make,” Gustavsson said. “That’s how it should be for a head coach and that’s also how we get better. 

“The players that have been selected, it’s a team with a lot of passion and pride to now represent the country.  It’s a spirit within the team that I love.

“It’s a team and a roster that is very attacking balanced, but also with a lot of versatility. There’s a lot of players in this roster that can play multiple positions with which is exactly what you need in an Olympic tournament.

On the pitch you are definitely going to see a brave team that’s going to take a step forward. It’s going to be an attacking mindset on the field.  Off the field, this team is always going to represent in the best way possible. It’s an authentic team that is really true to who they are and very, very proud to represent their country.”

NamePositionAgeOlympic Games
Lydia WilliamsGoalkeeper332nd (2016)
Teagan MicahGoalkeeper23Debut
Alanna KennedyDefender262nd (2016)
Steph CatleyDefender272nd (2016)
Clare PolkinghorneDefender322nd (2016)
Ellie CarpenterDefender212nd (2016)
Aivi LuikDefender36Debut
Emily van EgmondMidfielder272nd (2016)
Elise Kellond-KnightMidfielder302nd (2016)
Tameka YallopMidfielder302nd (2016)
Chloe LogarzoMidfielder262nd (2016)
Kyra Cooney-CrossMidfielder19Debut
Sam KerrForward272nd (2016)
Hayley RasoForward26Debut
Caitlin FoordForward262nd (2016)
Emily GielnikForward29Debut
Kyah SimonForward302nd (2016)
Mary FowlerForward18Debut

Mackenzie Arnold, Laura Brock, Charlotte Grant and Courtney Nevin have been named as the travelling reserves. If called up to the team due to injury or other circumstances, they would be selected to the Australian Olympic Team at that time.

Ben Gilby writes for Beyond90, Australia’s leading independent women’s football platform. Visit https://beyond90.com.au/

Impetus’ coverage of Australian Women’s Football is supported by The Chicken Salt Co. They are offering every Impetus reader 5% off all orders of Chicken Salt from their website. Go to https://www.chickensalt.co.uk/?mate=impetus and place your order – 5% will automatically be taken off of the cost. The coupon code is impetus.

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