Canberra United duo Chloe Lincoln and Sasha Grove have been included in Head Coach Leah Blayney’s 23-player squad to take part in the AFC Round 1 Qualifiers to be held in the Kyrgyz Republic in March.

Blayney’s side has been drawn alongside hosts Kyrgyz Republic, Guam, and Iraq, and will need to top the group to progress to Round 2, which will be played from June 3 to 11, 2023 where the four best sides will earn a spot in the Finals to be held in Uzbekistan.

Returning to the global stage for the first time since 2019, the age-group tournament is set to shift from its erstwhile identity of a U19 competition and will be played in a U20 format.

Selection of the squad has followed three training camps and international matches over the past six months that saw 43 different players called up for the start of the new U-20 cycle. Blayney said that the selected players are eager to commence the qualifiers positively in Bishkek.

“I can’t fault the way all the players have undertaken the preparations for the Round 1 Qualifiers over the past six months,” Blayney said. “Their diligence and enthusiasm made the selection of the final 23 an incredibly challenging one with so much talent available across Australia.

“Our final 23 reflects the needs of the squad to ensure balance across all positions with the players named providing unique attributes to the collective. We have been diligent with our scouting network with the mixture of Liberty A-League Women’s, National Premier Leagues, metro, and regional, and international players sending the message that we will consider any footballer we believe can be valuable to our ultimate goal.

“Qualification for the 2024 AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup will be a long process and, while those who were not selected this time around would be disappointed, it is important to recognise their contribution in elevating the training standard and highlighting that there will be several future openings.”

For a majority of the roster, it will be their first taste of international competition football at the U-20 age group with only seven players returning from the CommBank Young Matildas 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup™ campaign.

The squad sees strong representation from the Liberty A-League Women’s competition with 19 of the 23 currently on the rosters of ten different clubs. Several have starred in the competition with strong performances across the 15 rounds of the 2022/23 season.

Seven different Member Federations are also featured including several players from regional Australia. “This will be an important trip for us to not only ensure we progress to the next stage but also ingrain good foundations that will benefit us across the next two years.

“Regardless of the opponent, we take every match seriously as they are not only occasions where we can develop but also where we can establish strong habits for future tests. There is an unknown quality to the opposition which by necessity means we need to ensure full focus on our own performances, continued building of cohesion and executing our playing style.”

Players and staff will depart Australia on 3 March 2023 with the CommBank Young Matildas’ opening match kicking off at 8.00pm on 6 March 2023 (local time),


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