CommBank Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson has called up 23 players for this month’s AFC Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024™ Asian Qualifiers Round 3 (Asian Qualifiers) including a recall for ace Canberra United striker Michelle Heyman.
Australia will take on world number 47, Uzbekistan, in a two-match home-and-away series on 24 February 2024 at Tashkent’s Milliy Stadium (8.00pm AEDT), before returning to Australia for the final Asian Qualifier on 28 February 2024 at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium (8.00pm AEDT).
The victor of the series will be one of the Asian Football Confederation’s two representatives at the Paris 2024™ Olympic Games.
In the first internationals of 2024, Gustavsson’s 23-player squad is headlined by captain for the series, Steph Catley – in the absence of injured captain Sam Kerr – and 20 players who assisted Australia in advancing to the final round courtesy of topping Group A in Round 2.
Head Coach Tony Gustavsson said: “After a significant 2023 and well-earned break, we are itching to come together with a clear focus and mission in front of us as we look to complete the first phase of our Olympic journey. We appreciate the task ahead of us. Uzbekistan is equally motivated to create their own nation’s history and will be a well-prepared opponent.”
The squad sees four changes from the October 2023 Asian Qualifiers including forward Sam Kerr (knee), goalkeeper Lydia Williams (ankle) with defender Charlie Rule (hip) also unavailable due to injury.
In their place, Sydney FC goalkeeper Jada Whyman, forward Michelle Heyman (Canberra United FC), midfielder Chloe Logarzo (Western United FC) and defender Kaitlyn Torpey (San Diego Wave FC) have earned berths in the squad that will be targeting a historic third straight qualification for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.
The current A-League Women’s Golden Boot leader (ten goals), Heyman returns to the national team set up after a six year absence. Logarzo was part of last year’s CommBank Matildas FIFA Women’s World Cup pre-camp, while full-back Torpey receives her first senior national team call up following stand out performances with the U-23 Women’s National Team and current ladder leaders Melbourne City.
“Selecting this squad has been a challenge with a lot of moving parts; from injuries to some players and reduction of competitive match minutes for other players due to off-seasons,” said Gustavsson. “The challenge has also created opportunity with consistent performers provided an opening to be contributors during a vital set of Olympic Qualifiers. We have been evaluating players consistently in recent months and our goal has been to find the balance between the most in-form and those who will work well in terms of on pitch connections and chemistry,” he
Australia and Uzbekistan have met previously on one other occasion in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei in 2007. Australia prevailed 10-0 in that Olympics Qualifier Preliminary Round with only veteran defender Clare Polkinghorne present from that squad.
The two nations qualified for this final phase of the Asian Qualifiers by virtue of the CommBank Matildas finishing on top of Group A and Uzbekistan finishing as the best second-placed team from Round 2. Australia won all three of its group stage matches while Uzbekistan defeated Vietnam (1-0), fell to Japan (2-0) before overcoming India (3-0).
MATCH SCHEDULE | AFC WOMEN’S PARIS 2024™ OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS – ROUND 3
Uzbekistan v Australia
Date: Saturday, 24 February 2024
Kick-off: 2.00pm (local) / 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: Milliy Stadium, Tashkent
Broadcast: Paramount ANZ
Australia v Uzbekistan
Date: Wednesday, 28 February 2024
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Broadcast: Paramount ANZ