Matildas draw 1-1 with China after Michelle Heyman’s stoppage-time equaliser

The Matildas’ final preparations for the Paris Olympics have got off to a rusty start after a scrappy 1-1 draw with China in Adelaide on Friday.

Australia’s coach Tony Gustavsson fielded a largely experimental line-up for the opening hour of the Adelaide Oval fixture, but they were upstaged by the reigning Asian Cup champions, with a well-organised and disciplined China keeping the Matildas shotless for the first half.

And while a sell-out 52,912 people had packed in to see the Matildas strut their stuff, they were instead silenced in the 30th minute after Chinese winger Zhang Linyan opened the scoring, volleying home a cross from Central Coast Mariners winger Wurigumula.

But veteran striker Michelle Heyman came to the rescue in stoppage-time of the first half, tapping in from a goal-mouth scramble after a Mary Fowler free kick was fumbled by China’s goalkeeper.

Before the match, Gustavsson said he remained undecided on four spots for the 18-woman squad to contest the Paris Olympics starting in late July. The team’s starting XI reflected his need to test out those peripheral players, beginning without big guns Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Ellie Carpenter, Hayley Raso and Kyra Cooney-Cross.

But the team that started the game struggled to break down a tightly-packed Chinese defence, and regularly coughed up possession before being punished by quick transitional counter-attacks.

While the momentum of the game began to swing after five senior players were substituted on in the 60th minute, winger Caitlin Foord lasted just 15 minutes, leaving the field after being felled in a tackle, despite appearing in no great discomfort.

Following a tepid opening 29 minutes, China struck on the half-hour when a fast break down the right flank left Australia’s Kaitlyn Torpey sprawled in the grass after grappling with powerful striker Wurigumula.

As the pair jostled, Torpey slipped and fell to ground — replays showed a slight tug on her jersey from her opponent — while Wurigumula was quick to recover from the contact, her follow-up cross into the box deflected into the path of Zhang, who scored with a reflex right footer.

After half time, Australia showed far greater attacking intent and almost had a reward in the 56th minute when Cortnee Vine swung a cross into the box.

The ball landed near Fowler who was set to pull the trigger and shoot, but advancing China keeper Xu Huan knocked the ball away. Six minutes later, Gustavsson made five substitutions, summoning Catley, Foord, Raso, Carpenter and Kyra Cooney-Cross.

The injection of the Matildas mainstays had instant impact, with the Australians crafting a series of scoring chances through Raso and Fowler, though a scrambling China kept the Matildas scoreless.

But in a bizarre series of events in stoppage time, where Australia won a free kick just outside China’s penalty spot after the goalkeeper slid out to collect an innocuous ball only to hand-ball it and give a set piece away, a powerful striker by Fowler was fumbled by Xu and duly poked home by Heyman.

The Matildas meet China again in Sydney on Monday night and Gustavsson will announce his Olympic squad the following day.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

See you Monday!

I still think Heyman’s (and Fowler’s) issues tonight were more about distribution. They both should be on the plane to Paris. But maybe those in midfield (who aren’t feeding through enough quality ball) should be a bit worried – they need to step up and do better in the next leg.

– Ingrid

I think tonight that those who are already locked in to the Olympic squad are there for a reason…not sure any of the questions Tony had about the remaining four players were really answered tonight

– Tania

I think we’re all on the same page about tonight’s game: the Matildas definitely didn’t show enough against China to convince us of anything, so they’ll really need to step it up in the second match in Sydney on Monday to settle out nerves about their readiness for the Olympics.

We’ll have a match report out shortly, but for now, thanks so much for engaging with the blog tonight, and I’ll see you all again here on Monday night from 7:00pm AEST!

Until then, enjoy your weekend, and gooooo Tillies!!!

So what did you make of that?

Redemption rocks. Phew! Okay, how do you pick an optimal 18 squad out of that? I guess that’s why Tony’s paid the big bucks. More questions than answers, maybe the answers’ll arrive on Monday. Thanks Sam!

– Big Ben

High energy and effort leads to chances and finally a goal. Why did they play so conservatively for the first 88 minutes? Raso showed the way

– Tobi

Matildas lack quality. Any squad with EVE and Polkinghorne hasn’t hope against the new top nations.

– The bill

Great to see Michelle Heyman score at the death to salvage the draw, she’ll definitely be on the plane to Paris in July.

– Adam

What’s the answer? Give them time (and hope Ford’s injury heals)

– Betty

Whenever the Matildas have two-game windows, they do tend to be quite rusty and slow in the first of the two matches. So in that context, tonight’s game isn’t a huge surprise, nor is it a shock given the five changes Tony Gustavsson made to the starting line-up.

And yet… with Paris less than two months away… the Matildas don’t really have time to be this sloppy, do they? They certainly won’t be forgiven for it against the USA, Germany, and Zambia.

But who do you reckon impressed tonight? Did any player convince you that they should go to the Olympics? Or do we need another game to figure it out?

Heyman redemption!

Let the scoreboard show that it was Michelle Heyman who equalised. I won’t hear a bad word said about her! (even if she didn’t have a great game 🙂 ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

michelle heyman doesn’t miss in front of goal! she might not be sam kerr but she should be in paris as a CF.

– alex

– Samantha Lewis

I was literally typing a post about Michelle Heyman’s game tonight, and then she just goes and scores.

Maybe that’s why she goes to Paris: because she can be there right until the very end.

Full time: Australia 1 – 1 China

The commentators curse Sam…Michelle Heyman unseen all night…bobs up in the 95min…extraordinary!

– stumcin

Yeeeeeeesssssssss!!!! 🥳🥳🥳

– Tania

YYYYYYYYY3EEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAASHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

– Natty

FInally!!!!!!

– M

I feel that goal should be given to the china goalkeeper. She put a lot of effort to make australia score

– First

Michelle is back online!!!

– Micko

Geez. Oztraylia. You got damn lucky with that goal at the end! Coulda/shoulda done better. And sooner.

– Ingrid

Whew

– sandye

Hurray

– jag

Just like the last time they played, a stoppage-time equaliser rescues the Matildas after a pretty sluggish display.

Absolute scenes from the sold-out stadium – and from all of you – right at the death!

94′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

MICHELLE HEYMAN EQUALISES AFTER A TRULY BIZARRE SERIES OF EVENTS!

A free kick just outside China’s box was awarded after their goalkeeper came sprinting off her line and seemed to hand-ball it after a miscontrol?

Mary Fowler stood over the ball, sending her rocket of a right foot through the set piece towards the front post, where the keeper isn’t able to catch it and the deflection falls right to the feet of Heyman, who pokes it home.

1-1!

93′ Where are our goals coming from?

The hole left by Sam Kerr’s absence is starting to look bigger and bigger with every minute that goes by tonight!

– stumcin

Hopefully Caitlin Foord doesn’t have a serious injury, this would be disastrous for the Matildas 55 days out from the first game in the Olympics.

– Adam

As I wrote at the start of tonight’s blog, the Matildas really haven’t figured out the answer of how to score goals without Sam Kerr.

As Adam says, this injury to Caitlin Foord is a worry. She was massive for the Tillies during the World Cup when Kerr was unavailable. Mary Fowler’s wobbly form in this game is a concern, as has Michelle Heyman’s kinda-nothing performance.

So what’s the answer?

91′ Chance China!

Another counter-attack from China sees Wu Chengshu through one-on-one with Clare Hunt, who’s backtracking into her own box, trying to hold up the energised substitute.

Chengsu twists and turns and finds a half-space, swinging her foot through the ball, but she doesn’t quite connect and it fizzes into Mackenzie Arnold’s hands.

Five minutes of added time

87′ Hunt gets crunched

A wildly spinning aerial ball from Hayley Raso that deflected off a Chinese player falls dangerously towards the top of the box, where Clare Hunt and substitute Wu Chengshu both race towards it, trying to nick it out of the air and do something.

Hunt is the tallest of the two and is able to head it away in time, but Chengshu barrels straight through the centre-back, sending her crashing into the grass.

There’s a couple words exchanged between the Chinese striker and Steph Catley afterwards as Hunt catches her breath. Not so friendly after all, this.

86′ Big Woman Up Top

I don’t know how you folks feel, but when I see Alanna Kennedy thrown up front into the centre-forward position, that’s when I know that Tony Gustavsson is running out of ideas.

Like, I get it. She’s tall and good in the air. But so is Michelle Heyman. Is this really Plan B if the Matildas are behind during the Olympics?

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85′ China substitutions

Mengwen Li is off for Mengyu Shen.

Shuang Wang Shuang is replaced by Cong Yuan.

And Yanwen Wang is off for Jiali Tang.

82′ Michelle Heyman’s gone missing

Another watcher/reader (Olive) mentioned that Mary Fowler was “struggling to do her Mary magic here”. I wonder if both her and Michelle Heyman are suffering from not being fed enough good balls? Hopefully, the subs will change that and improve distribution.

– Ingrid

Is hayman in her space jam version?

– First

She’s really just been a warm body out there for this second half, hasn’t she? It’s like the game has been happening around her and she’s just kinda been watching from a really awesome front-row seat.

I do think that the build-up play has affected her tonight, though. She barely connected with the two midfielders in the first half, and now is having to deliberately involve herself in plays to try and get anywhere near the ball.

She leaps onto a moment now, spinning on the ball after a China error, and takes a couple charging steps into the box, but just as she tries to shoot, a Chinese defender gets a toe on the ball and it spins into the keeper’s arms.

80′ Chance Australia!

They’re throwing more bodies forward now, trying to overload China’s backline and create a bit of chaos.

Another corner is taken short, with Fowler delivering the ball to the very back of the box, where Hayley Raso nods it back towards the penalty spot.

Kennedy is there, and tries an acrobatic sideways kick, but she doesn’t quite catch it and it spins over the bar.

79′ Not many beliEVErs on the blog tonight

Surprised TG left EVE out there….thoughts?

– Tania

not sure why tony is so keen on emily van egmond? she cannot play as a striker and as a midfielder not anymore effective than clare wheeler or yallop…

– alex

Honestly? I agree. Emily Van Egmond doesn’t seem to have the speed or style that you associate with this high-intensity Matildas team, so it’s odd that she’s played such a pivotal role in the side for so long.

78′ Aaaaaand she misses

Kennedy goes for it, trying to whip the ball up and over China’s wall and into the top corner, but it flies over the crossbar instead.

78′ Matildas win a dangerous free kick

Emily Van Egmond was clipped from behind by a clumsy Chinese player just outside the top of the box.

Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy are standing over it. China have five players in the wall…

Crowd: 52,912

Hectic. Well done, Adelaide!

76′ Australia substitution

Uh oh.

Caitlin Foord, who came on only 15 minutes ago, goes down in the grass, gesturing towards her hamstring.

A minute later, she walks off the field, replaced by Brisbane Roar winger Sharn Frier.

75′ China substitution

Goal-scorer Zhang Linyan is off for Liu Yanqui.

74′ Chance Australia!

A more characteristic passage from Australia with Ellie Carpenter slotting through the speedy Hayley Raso down the right wing.

She cuts the ball back from the by-line, aiming for the penalty spot, where Mary Fowler is steaming in to meet it.

But Carpenter is there instead, and gets in the way of Fowler’s swing, so she doesn’t quite meet it properly and the ball deflects off a China defender and bounces away up-field instead.

Bugger.

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Sydney FC claim A-League Women championship after defeat of Melbourne City

The irrepressible Sydney FC have beaten Melbourne City 1-0 to claim a record fifth A-League Women championship, and their second in a row.

Premiers City dominated possession but super-sub Shea Connors struck in the 69th minute, brilliantly assisted by teen sensation Indiana Dos Santos, to send the Sky Blues into ecstasy.

Both teams were on four titles heading into Saturday’s clash at AAMI Park in Melbourne, which took place in front of 7671 fans.

It was the second-highest grand final attendance ever, after the 9519 in Sydney last year.

Sky Blues midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby was named player of the match.

City right-back Bryleeh Henry was superb and Julia Grosso shut down Matildas star Cortnee Vine, while Sydney FC defenders Charlotte Mclean and Jordan Thompson kept the dangerous Hannah Wilkinson quiet.

The Melbourne side suffered a blow before the game, with goalkeeper Barbara ruled out with a quad strain.

Veteran Melissa Barbieri stepped in, with Emily Shields signed late as a back-up.

Despite her 27-year professional career and more than 80 caps for the Matildas, it was Barbieri’s first start in a grand final.

She made a sharp one-handed save to deny Thompson inside the opening minute, while her Sydney counterpart Jada Whyman was also called into action early to deny Wilkinson.

In the 11th minute, City teenager Daniela Galic bamboozled multiple Sydney defenders but her tame close-range effort was easily claimed by Whyman.

The Sky Blues almost pinched a goal at the end of the half after Stott slipped and Hawkesby pounced, but the Sydney midfielder attempted to pass rather than shoot and Henry recovered to clean up.

In the 64th minute it was City’s turn to go close, Taylor Otto dragging a shot wide of the far post.

Sydney skipper Princess Ibini set a record by playing in her eighth decider, but made way for Connors in the 67th minute – and it proved a master stroke from coach Ante Juric.

Two minutes later, a poor Rebekah Stott header fell to Shay Hollman, who worked the ball to Dos Santos.

The 16-year-old pulled off a wonderful pass to find Connors, who beat City’s defence for pace, burst forward and struck a first-time shot past Barbieri.

Dario Vidosic’s City spurned multiple good chances to equalise and were left to rue what might have been.

Hughes shot over the bar in the 79th minute, and Leticia McKenna appeared destined to score four minutes later only to be denied by a Hollman clearance over the bar.

Rhianna Pollicina should have levelled the tie in the 84th minute after a Whyman clearance fell to her, but with the goal beckoning she blasted over the bar.

Check out how the game unfolded in our liveblog below.

Key events

So long, glorious Dub

Well, it’s been an epic season. The first home-and-away season in A-League Women history, record-breaking attendances and broadcast audiences, all in the afterglow of that incredible Women’s World Cup.

I’ll have plenty more to say about how Sydney’s incredible win tonight speaks to these bigger trends and themes, but for now, it’s time to say goodbye to what has been a sensational season of Dub.

Thank you all so much for joining me on the blog today, and I’ll be seeing you again when the Matildas take on China at the end of the month.

Until then – GO SYDNEY! And cyas!

Post-game scenes

The podium has been erected on the field, with a big blue arch set up nearby behind a CHAMPIONS sign.

Sydney FC midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby is named Player of the Match for an immense effort. She really has been the saviour of Sydney’s season in so many ways, so it’s fabulous to see her recognised.

The players of Melbourne City are now filing acrss the stage to receive medals and shake hands with a couple representatives of the A-Leagues.

They’re all looking absolutely shattered, as you’d expect. Some were in tears after the final whistle. To have come so far but have fallen short right on the brink of history has gotta hurt.

It’s the Sydney players’ turns now. They’re all wearing scarves, which they wrap around the necks of the young girls who’ve been recruited from a local club to hand out their medals.

There’s a small but vocal group of hardcore Sydney fans down one end of the field waving banners and scarves and singing for their players. Great effort from them all to travel down to watch their team defend their championship title.

Analysis corner with Big Ben

A really enjoyable match of tactics – nuts at the start as someone tried to get the early advantage – no deal. Then all tensed up for remainder of first half. Then in the second the tactical difference I think was Sydney subbing when they wanted, and Melbourne City subbing when they needed. Melbourne cracked, which lit things up nicely for the rest of the (oddly long) time. Well done ALW. Well done Sydney. Well done Connors, Well done Sam and thank you 🙂

– Big Ben

Great summary of the match here from Ben, one of the blog’s regulars.

I think you’re spot-on, Ben. The timing of Sydney’s substitution of Connors was definitely key, whereas it looked like City were maybe hedging their bets on the game going to extra-time and wanting fresh legs.

But it came back to bite ’em almost immediately.

Your reactions (to my mum??)

Drinks are on Sandye tonight! 😊🏆🍾🥂

– Leo

Sandeye….golf champ…one eyed Sky Blue…and Samantha’s Mum…some people have all the luck!!!

– stumcin

Final thoughts

As soon as the whistle blew, Sydney FC’s entire bench ran out onto the field in a dark blue wave of noise and flailing arms.

It’s almost unbelievable that they’ve won this considering the stats of this game: 28% possession, just 3 shots on target, and only one corner.

This wasn’t about trying to play football, though. This was about trying to find a single moment and capitalising. And when Melissa Barbieri mis-timed her sprint off the line, allowing Shea Connors to squeeze the ball beneath her legs, that was all the moment Sydney FC needed.

From there, it was bunkering in and trying to survive the storm of a City side who realised, finally, that they were playing in a grand final, and that grand finals require something else than what got them the premiership.

They tried – god knows, they tried – and those final, endless minutes of extra time were panic-stations, throwing everything they could at a team that had defended so brilliantly all game, trying to create moments of their own.

They had some, but the players who you’d usually expect to grasp them – Rhianna Pollicina, Emina Ekic, Laura Hughes – tonight, simply, couldn’t.

By the end, it was the team who’s battled through wars of their own, who weathered the ups and downs of the whole season and came out the other side champions.

Sydney FC can now lay claim to being the most successful team in A-League Women history. A fifth championship to match their five premierships. And they did it, this season, with the youngest team in the league. Is there any team who will ever be able to do what they’ve done again? I doubt it.

My mum won golf AND her team won the Dub grand final

the double!! woo hoo! well done SFC!

– Sandye

She’s your lucky charm, Sydney fans!!!

FULL-TIME: SYDNEY FC WIN 1-0!

THE SKY BLUES DEFEND THEIR A-LEAGUE WOMEN CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE!

96′ Everyone’s up!

City’s formation is basically a 5-4-1, having thrown as many as they can risk forward to try and find a last-ditch equaliser.

But the final pass just isn’t there. They’ve sent dozens of corners into Sydney’s penalty area, but none of them have been met by a team-mate. They’ve tried to squeeze and wriggle and pass their way through and behind and around, but they just can’t find someone to twist the final knife.

One thing’s for sure: this has been a hell of an impressive mature performance by Sydney. The youngest team in the league, a team that wasn’t favoured to take this out, but who, somehow, find themselves on the brink of a fifth championship title.

93′ Crash-and-bash

Melbourne City are running out of ideas. Sydney’s dark blue wall has held firm all game, anchored by the excellent Jordan Thompson and Charlotte McLean, and they just haven’t been able to find a crack.

So they’re just throwing themselves at Sydney’s players now. Taylor Otto isn’t a centre-back anymore, she’s a miscellaneous midfielder, using her height and strength to try and crash her way through Sydney’s defence.

It’s route-one balls from City at this point, over the top or through, just trying to create any possible half-opening that they could swing a hopeful foot at.

But Sydney are holding. And holding. And holding. Sometimes, they nick the ball away to a Cortnee Vine or a Mackenzie Hawkesby, who pump their tired legs to try and move it away from their own goal. But mostly they’re just sitting deep and trying to protect this lead.

9 minutes of added time

Where the HECK did that come from!?

Who cares! It’s time for chaos.

88′ City keep coming!!

Now we have a game…Melbourne City are throwing the kitchen sink!

– stumcin

Sydney FC need to be careful going into the late stages of the game, Melbourne City are desperate for the equaliser and will no doubt capitalise on any and every chance they get.

– Adam

Wave after wave of attack as they try to equalise!

Sydney are scrambling – trying to hold their nerve, stay calm and structured – but a single wrong step or bad decision could spell the end.

City are slicker now, faster, sharper in their angles and movements.

Galic nips the ball away from a sloppy Abbey Lemon and dinks it back over Whyman’s diving hands, trying desperately to find Emina Ekic at the back post, but it flies just over her leaping ponytail.

The crowd is up now, getting louder, trying to push the home side on. The minutes are slipping away. There’s not long left to keep their double hopes alive.

85′ Chance City!!

The home side attack again with some strong individual work from Daniela Galic in the box, slipping the ball through three Sydney defenders to McKenna on the right wing.

She clips a cross backwards, over the top of Sydney’s pack of defenders, and although Whyman gets a glove to the ball to slap it away, it falls right to the feet of Rhianna Pollicina.

She has nobody around her – she just needs to wait for the ball to fall perfectly – but her eventual shot flies over the crossbar instead.

She puts her head in her hands. That was the biggest chance she’s had all night. Should have buried it.

83′ CHANCE CITY!

OH MY GOODNESS!

The resulting free-kick is beautifully dipping towards the back post, and falls perfectly to Leticia McKenna.

The substitute takes a touch inside onto her left foot and rifles a shot towards goal.

Jada Whyman is already flying across to stop it but the ball is going above her, but Shay Hollman leaps into the air and heads it right over the crossbar.

The young midfielder celebrates like she’d scored. She just prevented an almost-guaranteed equaliser. Incredible.

82′ Yellow card Sydney

Tori Tumeth got turned around by Daniela Galic near the sideline and, in response, the Sydney defender just clambers into the City teenager and the two tumble into the ground.

It looks like Tumeth slipped slightly in the turf, but the referee didn’t see it, instead giving her the second yellow card of the game.

Galic is furious, she stands over Tumeth intimidatingly as a team-mate tries to get in the way to stop it from getting any more heated.

The players disperse to get ready for the free-kick.

79′ Chance City

Rhianna Pollicina almost breaks through Sydney’s defensive line, but Charlotte McLean does well to scramble back and sling a leg in the way to scoop the ball away from the City midfielder.

But it’s not quite enough and it falls straight to (I think) Laura Hughes, who cuts inside and takes a few steps towards the top of the box before rocketing a shot well over the crossbar.

78′ City 0 – 1 Sydney

There’s some chat in the media box about who’s been the Player of the Match.

It’s been a tough one considering this has been an arm-wrestle of a game, with neither team really having any clear stand-outs.

Daniela Galic has shown flashes of brilliance for City, but Sydney have been really sturdy in midfield with Mackenzie Hawkesby and Shay Hollman in particular.

Who do you reckon has been the MVP so far, team? Help us do the votes.

77′ City substitution

Leticia McKenna comes on for Hannah Wilkinson.

Official attendance: 7,671

It’s the second-highest crowd for an A-League Women grand final in history, though you’d have to think it should have been much higher considering some of the numbers we’ve seen throughout the season.

Your goal reactions!

Brilliant substitution! Great ball from Indiana! ⚽️😊

– Leo

Through pass on target! Neatly done, smart subbing.

– Big Ben

What a time to score your first goal for the season….We got Connors… Super Shea Connors!

– stumcin

GOALLL!!!!!! Yes!!!!!

– M

72′ City win a corner

The home side have sprung to life and immediately are on the counter, trying to equalise.

Hannah Wilkinson, who’s not done heaps this half, is suddenly up and about, dancing through Sydney’s defenders towards the by-line before clipping a ball off Jordan Thompson for a corner.

The ball is taken short and swung back in towards Jada Whyman, who’s crowded out by a couple players, and the ball bounces off a Sydney head before she scrambles to clutch it in her gloves.

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Matildas qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics with 10-nil thrashing of Uzbekistan

The ruthless Matildas have thrashed Uzbekistan 10-0 to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in style, with Michelle Heyman scoring four goals to put her hand up for a ticket to Paris.

Australia led the tie 3-0 after Saturday’s first leg in Tashkent but blew Uzbekistan out of the water to win 13-0 on aggregate, with Caitlin Foord, Kaitlyn Torpey, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso and Amy Sayer also scoring.

Temperatures hit 36C in Melbourne earlier on Wednesday, but it didn’t deter a crowd of 54,120, which included Olympic greats Cathy Freeman and Anna Meares.

The Matildas took the lead inside 34 seconds at Marvel Stadium and never looked back, with Fowler at her spellbinding best in an eight-goal first-half rout.

Heyman, 35, who also scored in Tashkent, replaced Emily van Egmond for her first international start since March 2018.

The striker’s movement and guile proved far too hot for Uzbekistan to handle as she snared a hat-trick inside the first 16 minutes.

Second-gamer Torpey, 23, had a hand in three goals and scored her first international goal in her own compelling audition for the 18-player Olympics squad.

Australia took the lead when Torpey’s squaring ball deflected off Uzbek defender Dilrabo Asadova for an own goal.

Three minutes later, Fowler launched a diagonal ball from the left and Torpey brilliantly stuck out her right leg to cut the ball across goal.

Clare Hunt fluffed her shot but Heyman was on hand to tuck it away.

For the third, in the eighth minute, Steph Catley lofted a ball in from the left that dipped for Heyman to nod home.

Heyman sealed her hat-trick when Fowler threaded a great ball behind the Uzbek defence for the striker to put away.

Torpey scored the fifth in the 22nd minute when Uzbekistan failed to clear a corner and she rifled a close-range strike into the roof of the net.

Rarely troubled, Mackenzie Arnold made a strong save to deny Uzbekistan captain Lyudmila Karachik in the 28th minute.

Six minutes later, Katrina Gorry picked out Fowler with a wonderful inside pass and the playmaker rifled home.

In the 38th minute, Uzbekistan failed to deal with a Kyra Cooney-Cross free kick and Foord pounced for Australia’s seventh.

On the stroke of half-time, Uzbekistan cleared a corner off the line but Torpey squared it for Heyman to stoop and head home her fourth.

Heyman, Foord, Gorry and Ellie Carpenter came off at half-time, for Sayer, Tameka Yallop, van Egmond and Raso, while Charli Grant replaced Catley in the 65th minute.

Raso rifled home in the 68th while Sayer’s first international goal in the fourth minute of injury time put an exclamation mark on the victory.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Well, what a way to qualify for your third Olympic Games in a row!

An absolute masterclass from the Matildas saw them sweep aside the underdog Uzbeks, taking out the two-legged tie 13-0 on aggregate.

The first half was particularly brutal, with the tone set within the first 45 seconds by Kaitlyn Torpey’s torpedo cross that was spun into the net by an Uzbekistan defender.

The goals came thick and fast after that, with Michelle Heyman scoring four in the first 45 minutes alone.

Torpey, Mary Fowler, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, and Amy Sayer all added to the scoreboard, and while a host of rotations made the second half a little less thrilling, there is very little to complain about from this completely dominant display by Australia’s fave sports team.

The players are about to be congratulated with a special presentation on the field: a giant “QUALIFIED” sign has been set up on half-way, with a giant novelty plane ticket being presented to them by Olympic legend Anna Meares.

It’s been a long road through qualifying, but finally the Matildas can prepare properly for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

And you bet your butts I’ll be back here on the blog when they do, as well as for a friendly they’ve got set up against Mexico on April 10.

Until then, take it easy!

Your reactions!

What a game! I’d hoped we’d win, but I never expected this!

– Mickey from Canberra

Love it

– Julian

Thanks for another great live blog, Sam! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

Uzbekistan have been much better this half both defensively and in terms of capitalising on chances they get but ultimately you do have to feel for them having lost their keeper to injury and losing by a large margin for the first time since their Asian Games semi and third-place matches against North Korea and China.

– Adam

All this time we’ve been looking for another striker and she has been hiding in plain sight at Canberra…

– Mike

Ms Sayer! Relief written large on a young face. I suspect this second half, like the first half a few days ago, has made Tony’s squad selection decision making a little easier. All solid, a well oiled machine he’s built, complete with sub parts, and a couple of high profile busted elements. Finally he has the depth and breadth they’ve all worked for. It’s a joy to experience. Thanks Sam!

– Big Ben

THE MATILDAS ARE GOING TO THE PARIS OLYMPICS!!!!

To: the blog. From: the Matildas.

Will I ever get my ten goals 😂

– Julian

C’mon ladies, let’s make it a nice round 10!

– C

Full-time: Australia 10 – 0 Uzbekistan

93′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

Aaaaaand that’s 10!

It’s Amy Sayer’s turn to get on the scoreboard after a nice series of one-two passes between Tameka Yallop and Mary Fowler slice right through Uzbekistan’s midfield, before the ball is fed down the left wing for the onrushing Charlie Grant.

The left-back then clips a dangerous ball back across the six-yard area, spinning chaotically through a bunch of legs, before falling to Sayer at the back post, who swings her left foot through it and finally finds the back of the net.

10-0.

90′ Five minutes of added time

Uzbekistan, to their full credit, haven’t stopped trying.

They’ve had a handful of moves that have ended in the Matildas’ penalty box, including one just now as a handful of players try to build some triangles through the middle before Karachik Lyudmila chips the ball over the top to nobody except Mackenzie Arnold.

They’ve kept Australia to just one goal in this whole half, which is something.

Get ’em out, I say

What’s with the rolled up sleeves? Kennedy, Raso and now Grant.

– Ronan

What, you’re saying you wouldn’t roll up your sleeves if you had the incredible athletic arms of these players?

I don’t think I’d ever wear sleeves again, personally.

Anyone else keen for a Matildas sleeveless guernsey?

Loading

Maybe “Mystical Mary” is a more apt alliteration

It’s interesting you mention Fowler appearing to operate in a different dimension – I think she might be a shape-shifter. There are times she takes the ball into congested traffic and somehow effortlessly appears on the other side still with the ball, or approach in-possession opposition players from behind, pass through them and continue on with the ball…

– Mike

Meanwhile…

Loving the meme posted about Japan v N. Korea. I literally only eat popcorn in for dinner in Matilda’s nights!

– Lulu

Japan lead North Korea 1-0 just after the hour-mark.

It’s been a pretty even affair once again, though: Japan have had 8 shots to 9 (including 2 on target v 4), 58% possession to 42%, and zero corners to 1.

The DPRK could very well claw a goal back and push this second Olympic qualifier all the way to the edge.

You love to see it

I’m in the crowd and there is definitely a growing minority cheering on Uzbekistan… only to be drowned by the manic roar when the Tillies scored that ninth goal!

– Tess

There’s definitely a small Uzbek community here in Australia, and what a joy it must be for them to see their women’s national team playing here in a stadium like this. Love that they’re still cheering for their team, even though they’re 9-0 down.

Wow!

54,120 !!! Wow, a stark contrast to the 2,000 locals at Milliy stadium 5 days ago. It was still amazing to there. 29 other Aussies and myself.

– I Was in Tashkent

I was there in Tashkent 5 days ago. There was 30 Australians in attendance and about 2,000 locals. It was free entry to the match. It was amazing to see them inperson and up close.

– Travelling with Russell

Shout-out to the small group of die-hard Matildas fans who travelled all the way to Tashkent for the first leg, then flew back here to Melbourne for the second.

What an awesome experience!

79′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute goalkeeper seems to have had her foot trodden on by her own player during a challenge that involved Amy Sayer, but has stayed in the grass, so the Matildas take the opportunity to grab a quick drink on the sidelines.

There doesn’t seem to be much tactical chat happening. They’re just chilling out until the game ends, really. Mackenzie Arnold, Alanna Kennedy, and Clare Hunt are still on the field, talking amongst themselves. Raso and Torpey are on the far side doing the same.

76′ Shot after shot after shot

It’s honestly been hard to blog this match because the number of chances the Matildas have had is… stratospheric.

Just as I finish describing the build-up to one shot, they’ve found a way to create and let off another. So you just have to imagine the way things have gone based on the below:

Australia have registered 37 shots in total so far, including 17 on target.

70% possession, 85% pass accuracy, and 1 corners.

They’ve been completely, utterly, dominant. That’s the story of the game.

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Matildas triumph 3-0 over Uzbekistan in first Olympic qualifier

Michelle Heyman has scored her first international goal in almost eight years to inspire a 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan and drag the Matildas one step closer to a place at the Paris Olympics.

In their first match since superstar skipper Sam Kerr tore her ACL in January, Australia understandably missed one of the world’s best strikers at the Milliy Stadium in Tashkent.

The Matildas were scratchy and lacked cohesion, while Emily van Egmond had a horror night up forward, missing one sitter and failing to convert two other chances she would normally bury.

Coach Tony Gustavsson turned to Canberra United star Heyman, 35, to replace van Egmond off the bench in the 65th minute, and the veteran delivered just eight minutes later.

In her first appearance since 2018, Heyman headed home her 21st goal for Australia and her first since netting twice against Zimbabwe at the Rio Olympics on August 9, 2016.

Mary Fowler, who was wonderful in the second half, scored a sublime individual goal in the 84th minute, and Caitlin Foord headed home in the 86th to seal victory.

It means Australia will head into Wednesday’s second leg at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium with a crucial 3-0 lead in the tie.

Debutant Kaitlyn Torpey started on the wing, wearing Kerr’s number 20 but was hooked for Foord, who was having her game time managed, at half-time.

Australia had 75 per cent of possession in the first half but just four shots and one on target, but they finished with 26 (eight on target).

They should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Torpey tried to square for van Egmond instead of shooting.

Hayley Raso dragged a first-time strike wide on the half-hour mark, and shortly afterwards van Egmond hooked over the bar.

Just before half-time, van Egmond failed to get a header on target from point-blank range.

In the 54th minute, Fowler curled a wonderful ball behind the Uzbekistan defence and van Egmond inexplicably failed to tap home.

Heyman headed over the bar a minute after coming on, then delivered the lead when she nodded a corner onto the bar before following up with a second header.

Fowler then intercepted a clearance with a wonderful first touch, weaved between defenders and ripped a fantastic long-range strike inside the near post.

Foord found space and turned home a Steph Catley cross to wrap up proceedings.

Check out how all the action unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

 First of all: whew.

That first half was pretty rusty, as expected, but Tony Gustavsson’s substitutes gave the Matildas exactly the energy and dynamism they needed to unlock what had been, until then, a very solid Uzbekistan defence.

Michelle Heyman will be absolutely buzzing, scoring her first goal since 2016 upon her return to the national team after a four-year retirement, while Mary Fowler and the excellent Caitlin Foord added goals two and three.

You’d have to think the Canberra striker is a lock to start in the second leg in Melbourne on Wednesday: she provided Australia with a target player, height, power, and important movement to bring other players into the game around her.

Now that they’ve made it through this chilly first game, the Matildas return home with wind in their sails and a 3-0 advantage, which is exactly what they would have wanted.

Thanks so much for joining me on the blog for tonight’s game, and I can’t wait to be back here on Wednesday as we see whether the gals can qualify for their third Olympic Games in a row!

See you then!

Full-time: Uzbekistan 0 – 3 Australia

Crowd numbers

Robbie Thompson has said the crowd in Tashkent is just under 2,500 people.

As of today, almost the entirety of Marvel Stadium is sold out for Wednesday’s second leg.

The Uzbekistan players won’t be ready for noise like that, I reckon.

Permutations

What happens if Tillies win tonight and Uzbekistan wins Wednesday night? Who goes to Paris?

– EveWintergreen

It depends on how much Uzbekistan hypothetically win by.

If Australia finish this game 3-0 winners, Uzbekistan would need to win at least 4-0 in Melbourne on Wednesday to qualify for Paris.

90′ Three minutes of time added on

Same, honestly

UZB’s goalie kicking the ball back in the net after the third goal is so real. I would be so frustrated

– Em for Matildas

89′ Australia substitution

Ellie Carpenter comes off for Charlie Grant.

Catchy!

The song we sing here, Hey hey Heyman ooohh ahhh, I wanna know if you’ll kick that goal!

– Canberra is cool

Yiew!!!

And again ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️
Mary Fowler

– Vic in Vic

HaHAAAAAA! Heyman + Fowler

– Big Ben

Mary Mary Mary you beaute

– Em for Matildas

Just my luck. I step out to put stuff in the fridge, and the Tillies score a goal. Belated Hooray, anyway!

– SeonaBath

Floodgates open. Thanks Caitlin! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

85′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

Caitlin Foord makes it three!

The Matildas have been trying this move all night: a winger chipping a pass in behind Uzbekistan’s defenders to find the head of an attacking player, and this time Caitlin Foord is there, all alone, to nod home a perfectly-weighted cross from Steph Catley.

3-0!

Hail Mary!

Mary Fowler you superstar! 😍⚽️💚💛

– Leo

83′ GOAL AUSTRALIA!

MAGIC MARY FOWLER MAKES IT TWO!

The midfielder has been chipping away at Uzbekistan’s defenders all night, and this time she just goes route one: picking up the ball in deep midfield and dancing past three players all by herself.

She skates towards the top of the box and steadies herself, unleashing her lethal right foot through the rubber to send a shot low and hard across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner of the net.

2-0!!!

82′ Australia substitutions

Aivi Luik replaces Alanna Kennedy, while Tameka Yallop comes on for Hayley Raso.

80′ Chance Australia!

Goodness me, that was almost a bizarre second goal for the Matildas.

A long, dipping cross from Mary Fowler far out on the left wing is falling perfectly into the Zone Of Hesitation between Caitlin Foord and Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper, with both of them thinking the other was going to touch it, only for neither of them to get it at all.

Instead, the ball bounces past all of them and a gasp goes around the ground as it almost nestles into the far corner of the net, but bounces just wide instead.

77′ Matildas want a second

They’ve been attacking Uzbekistan in waves for the past five minutes, coming in at all angles and trying to keep the tempo and pressure up on their opponents.

Catley’s corners have been on-point all night, and are looking like Australia’s best attacking weapon at the moment. Alanna Kennedy could have nodded home the Matildas’ second goal a few minutes ago, but she mistimed her jump. Clare Hunt did the same just now.

You’d think they’ll be working a bit more on finishing their headers in the interim before the second leg of this series on Wednesday night, but wouldn’t it be great to snag one or two more goals here so that the pressure is off in Melbourne?

I sure would love that.

Woohoo!!!!

YYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

– Natty

Finally ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ Michelle Hayman

– Vic in Vic

Oh Michelle! I’m in tears! ⚽️💚💛😍

– Leo

CRYING SCREAMING THROWING UP I AM SO HAPPY

– Em for Matildas

Finally! Tillies score off a corner in how long? Thank you Ms Heyman and welcome back.

– Big Ben

72′ GOAL AUSTRALIA!

MICHELLE HEYMAN SCORES IN HER COMEBACK GAME!

A brilliant corner from Steph Catley angles in towards the front post, bobbling off Heyman’s shoulder and clanging off the crossbar.

It could have deflected anywhere, but it fell straight back to her, and she nodded it over the scrambling Uzbekistan defender on the line and into the net.

1-0!

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Michelle Heyman’s Matildas recall highlights Australian football’s striker problem

When news broke in January that Matildas captain Sam Kerr had torn her ACL, keeping her on the sidelines of the sport for the better part of the next year, a question that had been simmering in the background of Australian women’s football for the past few years suddenly reached boiling-point.

How can the country’s greatest ever goal-scorer be replaced? Which player is ready to step into the 30-year-old’s golden shoes? Who is next in the production-line of Australian strikers?

This question was being asked even when Kerr was fit and healthy. Since the 2019 Women’s World Cup, doubts were festering that the Matildas had become too reliant on the Chelsea forward, and that the team struggled to find the back of the net without her.

Sam Kerr’s ACL injury has put a spotlight on Australian football’s ongoing struggle to develop strikers.(AAP Image: Richard Wainwright)

The 2022 Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinal against South Korea was a case in point: Kerr started that game and had a handful of open-net chances which, for some reason, she failed to finish. The Matildas lost 1-0 and exited the competition at the earliest point in their history.

The question was the subtext to Kerr’s calf injury on the eve of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, too: how on earth would the team perform without their star player? Who else do we have waiting in the wings to take over?

While head coach Tony Gustavsson was able to rapidly shuffle the team’s structure and rely more on other players like Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, Mary Fowler and Emily Van Egmond to step up in her place, Kerr’s memorable goal against England in the semifinal — the only bright spark in an otherwise fatigued performance from the rest of the team — left many wondering how much further the Matildas could have gone had she been available the whole time.

But there is no day-by-day countdown clock on Kerr’s return now, as there was last July. Today, we have certainty that she won’t make a miraculously speedy recovery to be fully fit for the Olympic qualifying play-off against Uzbekistan in about two weeks, nor for the Olympic Games in Paris in just five months’ time. The question has now come into full and urgent focus.

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Inexperienced Matildas fall to Canada 5-0 in opening friendly

The Matildas have recorded their heaviest defeat in 17 months, with an inexperienced line-up thrashed 5-0 by Canada.

Nichelle Prince scored a first-half brace to send Canada on its way, with Cloé Lacasse, Simi Awujo and Adriana Leon completing the rout inside 62 minutes on Saturday AEDT.

It was the Matildas’ biggest defeat and poorest performance since a similarly inexperienced line-up posted a 7-0 humiliation to Spain in 2022.

Coach Tony Gustavsson had promised an experimental squad and no players from the 4-0 Women’s World Cup win over Canada were named in the starting line-up.

Sam Kerr and Mackenzie Arnold were out injured, while Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross were among those benched amid heavy workloads at club level.

The starting line-up in Langford had a combined 429 caps, with 281 of those between Clare Polkinghorne and Tameka Yallop.

Charlize Rule and Sarah Hunter debuted at right-back and holding midfield and were among six players with fewer than 20 caps.

On a sodden artificial pitch at Starlight Stadium, the disjointed Matildas struggled to get to grips with the surface, or a brilliant Canada.

The Matildas were overrun in midfield and had no first-half shots to Canada’s 13 and it took just 10 minutes for the hosts to take the lead.

A heavy back-pass from Rule sold Polkinghorne into trouble and, as the centre-back got the ball caught under her feet, Prince pounced.

The striker pinched the ball away and coolly finished into the bottom corner.

Teagan Micah made three brilliant saves, denying Leon in the 24th and 31st minutes and Vanessa Gilles in the 27th.

But in the 43rd minute, Ashley Lawrence burst down the right and cut back to Prince, whose first-time shot beat a disappointed Micah at the near post.

Four minutes into the second half, the defending Olympic champions all but sealed victory when Hunter dawdled on the ball and Lacasse pinched it off her, before bursting to score.

In the 55th minute, Rule’s clearing header fell to Awujo, who had time to take a touch and fire home from distance.

Seven minutes later, Leon completed the rout when she drifted unmarked between a scattered defence to score.

Gustavsson turned to more experience in Fowler, Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry and Alanna Kennedy for the final half-hour.

The Matildas had their first shot through Fowler in the 74th minute, with Kailen Sheridan making a comfortable save.

In her second-last match, retiring Canada great Christine Sinclair entered the fray in the 62nd minute.

The second friendly is in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon AEDT.

AAP

Look back at how the action unfolded in our blog.

Key events

Final thoughts

Football is a cycle, and just as we saw the Matildas go through some growing pains in their early days under Tony Gustavsson, this was another moment in which we were reminded of what the next generation of players coming through the ranks looks like.

Commentator Andy Harper isn’t as forgiving of this result, though, the biggest loss Australia have copped since that 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain last year.

But just like that game, this was an experimental team: Five players with 15 or fewer caps, and with a number of key senior players benched until the hour mark.

“When you make bulk changes, bulk experiments, with so many young debutants, it makes it really difficult for them to shine,” Amy Chapman says on the broadcast.

She reckons a better balance needed to be struck by drip-feeding young players into the senior starting side, citing Kyra Cooney-Cross’s partnership with Katrina Gorry on the field as a big reason why she’s come such a long way so quickly. Maybe we’ll see that in the next game on Tuesday.

That’s not to say Canada weren’t excellent. They were a team who have clearly played a lot of football together, and who will be thrilled to put five past the team that defeated them at the World Cup six months ago.

The field itself was tough; a slick artificial surface in the frosty rain made it really difficult for both sides, and you could see the Matildas’ confidence wane as the game wore on.

They registered just two shots all game — both coming through Mary Fowler when she came on — which, you’d hope, will be a focus for the side in their final match of the year next week.

All in all, given the gulf in experience and quality between the two sides, it’s perhaps no surprise that it ended the way it did.

How they bounce back and what changes they make before the rematch on Tuesday will determine whether the Matildas can finish their remarkable 2023 with a bang or a whimper.

Until then, thanks for joining me. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Full-time: Canada 5 – 0 Australia

What’s next?

Is there much to be gained by serving up another experimental line up on Wednesday Sam? Surely we field our strongest line up to see if we can spoil the Christine Sinclair farewell party. A big crowd deserves a competitive game.

– stumcin

It’s a good question. I think it depends on a few things: 1) how the younger players pull up after this game, 2) how the more experienced players are feeling, and 3) what Tony Gustavsson wants to work on.

I can see a situation where there’s a combination of the “two” teams we saw tonight. Where, say, a Sarah Hunter plays alongside a Katrina Gorry, or a Remy Siemsen starts up front alongside a Hayley Raso or Mary Fowler.

Seeing how some of the individuals slot into the regular starting team would be the way I approach it, personally. But I’m not Tony. So we’ll have to wait and see.

90′ 2 minutes of added time

89′ The game is winding down now

Both teams have mostly cancelled each other out in the last 15 minutes. In terms of the scoreline, it’s well out of sight, and you feel that the substitutions Gustavsson made were partly made to save the confidence of the younger players. Those on the field now didn’t really need minutes, and they’re not playing with the kind of hunger that they may have had the scores been a little closer. That’s OK though. So long as nobody gets injured, that’s what matters.

84′ Canada try the counterattack

Christine Sinclair picks up the ball in midfield and turns before charging forward after Australia’s midfielders over-committed.

Young winger Bianca St. George is tearing down the right wing, and is spotted by Sinc, who delivers a delightful outside-of-the-foot through-ball into her teammate’s path.

She tears into the box, but Alanna Kennedy is in lockstep with her. The towering centre-back throws herself across the grass as she anticipates the cross, but St. Georges loses control of the ball and it trickles out for a goal kick.

80′ Canada 5 – 0 Australia

The Matildas have looked much more composed since those substitutions were made just after the hour, but Canada aren’t letting them back into the game.

While they’re not charging forward with quite the same energy or savagery as they did early on, they still don’t look super fazed by Australia’s fresh bodies, passing the ball calmly around the back and out onto the wings before recycling it back again.

The Matildas aren’t giving up – Mary Fowler had another penalty-box entry about a minute ago – but this seems to mostly be about damage control now.

77′ Tekkers Buchanan

The Chelsea centre-back looks to be at sea, on the ball with her back to goal as Amy Sayer pressures her from behind, but the veteran does a couple of lovely step-overs and wiggles away from the young Matilda, taking on three other Aussies and jinking a lovely pass through them all.

They’re just toying with us now …

76′ Substitution Australia

Hayley Raso comes on in place of Tameka Yallop.

73′ And just as I say that!

Mary Fowler receives an incisive pass from the right wing, turning into the D at the top of the box and rocketing her foot through the rubber.

It’s almost too straight a shot, though, and it slams right into the chest of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for her first save of the night.

That’s something, I guess…

71′ Canada 5 – 0 Australia

With 20 minutes left, the Matildas have a mountain to climb.

They’re not going to get back into this game, you’d think, but a start would be actually having some shots at goal.

I don’t remember the last time Australia went for so long in a game without registering a single shot.

Their possession has improved since the substitutions were made, but with Mary Fowler the only recognised senior attacker on the field – with Emily Van Egmond and Tameka Yallop supporting her – you wonder whether they’ll get close enough to register even one.

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The Matildas now know who they’ll have to beat to book their ticket to the Paris Olympics

The Matildas have swept the second round of their Olympic qualifying campaign with a 3-0 victory over Chinese Taipei, with a date with 50th-ranked Uzbekistan set for February to book their ticket to Paris 2024.

After beating Iran 2-0, followed by a spectacular 8-0 demolition of the Philippines in front of a record crowd on Sunday, their third straight win meant Australia finished on top of Group A with a perfect nine points from nine and a goal difference of plus-13.

To qualify for the Olympics, the Matildas must now beat Uzbekistan in a two-legged home-and-away play-off in February to secure one of the two spots given to Asian confederation teams.

Australia, North Korea and Japan secured their places among the final four in Asia by topping the three groups, with Uzbekistan joining them as the best-placed runner-up thanks to a 3-0 win over India.

Australia and world number eight Japan were both perfect in round two, but the Matildas’ goal difference ensured they were the top qualifier.

In front of 19,084 fans on Wednesday night, it took until the 62nd minute for Australia to open the scoring — but it was worth the wait.

Mary Fowler trapped a floated pass and took one more touch before unleashing a powerful strike from 20 metres out to send the crowd wild.

Six minutes later, hometown hero Sam Kerr scored the Matildas’ 900th goal from point-blank range to keep the ball rolling, before substitute Tameka Yallop sealed the deal in the 76th minute.

With goal difference pivotal, the Matildas unleashed a near full-strength starting XI against Chinese Taipei featuring Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Fowler, Mackenzie Arnold and Steph Catley.

But despite registering 17 shots to one in the first half and enjoying 79 per cent possession, the Matildas couldn’t find a way past their opposition’s staunch defence.

Fowler came the closest in the 14th minute, but her powerful shot from close range rattled the woodwork and deflected away.

Stand-out Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-Yu pulled off a series of strong saves to further frustrate the Matildas.

But Australia had only themselves to blame on other occasions, firing a series of shots either wide or over the target.

Kerr had a golden chance to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time, but her header at the far post went over the crossbar.

The Chelsea striker also fluffed a chance early in the second half when a poor first touch cost her what would have been a one-on-one opportunity against the goalkeeper.

But there was no stopping Fowler’s thunderous strike in the 62nd minute.

And when a goal-mouth scramble ensued shortly after, Kerr was on hand to score the tap-in.

Kerr was subbed off straight after the goal, but Yallop ensured the party continued with an easy finish following good lead-in work from Foord and Amy Sayer.

In the other match in Perth on Wednesday, the Philippines beat Iran 1-0 courtesy of a 19th minute goal from Tahnai Annis.

Check out how the match unfolded below with our blog.

Key events

Final thoughts

And with that, the Matildas fly through to the third round of Olympic qualifying after a blistering second-half performance against Chinese Taipei.

A glorious goal to Mary Fowler broke the deadlock, with Sam Kerr and Tameka Yallop adding to the damage as Australia finally crashed through an admirable opposition defence, highlighted by a stand-out performance from goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-Yu.

This is the final game the Matildas will play at home this year, and what a year it has been. These three sell-out games in Perth cap off a truly magical rise for the team in 2023, peaking with their Women’s World Cup run. Their impact will ripple through generations to come.

So what’s next for the team? A pair of friendlies against Canada in December, before returning to action in February in the third round of Olympic qualifying where they’ll face one of Asia’s stronger sides in a home-and-away series. Win that final leg and they’re through to Paris in July, where they have unfinished business after just missing out on a medal in Tokyo.

And as always, I’ll be there to take you through it all.

Thank you so much for joining me tonight for our live coverage of Australia v Chinese Taipei. You’re all legends for staying up so late, and I’m thrilled we got a fantastic second-half performance from the team to make tomorrow’s bleary-eyed workday worth it.

Take care and I’ll see you all soon!

Vic is two predictions from two!

Tim Tam slam for me 💚💛😜

– Vic in Vic

Quick, go and buy a lottery ticket, Vic!

Full-time: Australia 3 – 0 Chinese Taipei

92′ Australia keep on coming

We want four! They want four!

Caitlin Foord, Kyra Cooney-Cross, and Mary Fowler are all still hungry, swimming around the box as they search for a sealer.

The ball falls to Fowler, who’s on an absolute tear, opening her body up and thumping the rubber.

I fully expected it to fly into the net – as did most of the crowd based on the “ooh”s – but it goes just wide of the post.

5 minutes of added time

You and all of us, Tony!

I will sleep better now. phew! Thanks for the coverage Sam. Cheers

– Tony

Glad the Tillies could put on a show for ya in the second half.

I will sleep soundly knowing that we’ve got at least another ten years of Mary Fowler. And she’s already this good. Golly.

And the Player of the Match goes to…

Crowd number: 19,084

Woohoo!

That’s three sell-outs for the past three games, taking the sell-out streak for the Matildas to 11 consecutive games.

Sensational work, Perth. We should bring games there more often.

84′ Yallop almost has another!

A gorgeous floating cross from Amy Sayer on the right wing is looking for the head of Tameka Yallop, who made an immediate impact off the bench a few minutes ago.

The ball is floating in that in-between space where a single inch can determine who gets it, with Yallop and Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-Yu both throwing themselves up into the sky to connect with it.

The goalkeeper’s gloves reach the ball first, but Yallop’s momentum carries her into the keeper and clatters her into the grass.

She’s up a few moments later, taking a few sips of water. She’s been absolutely epic this game, and I recall the comments from her head coach Chan Hiu Ming yesterday, asking Australian A-League Women clubs to keep an eye on some of his players to potentially give them some opportunities.

Well, there’s someone who’s put her gloved hand up tonight.

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Matildas defeat Philippines 8-0 in second Olympic qualifier

Three days after scrapping past a stubborn Iran side, the Matildas have rediscovered their groove by defeating the Philippines 8-0 in front of a record crowd at Perth Stadium as their Olympic qualification campaign charges onwards.

Hat-tricks to Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord were complemented by goals to Mary Fowler and Clare Wheeler in both halves as head coach Tony Gustavsson fielded his strongest line-up for the first time since the World Cup.

In front of a sellout crowd of 59,155 at Optus Stadium on Sunday, Kerr and Foord scored first-half braces as Australia took a 5-0 lead into the break.

Kerr secured her hat-trick just 24 seconds into the second half when she headed home a pin-point cross from Mary Fowler for her 68th goal from 127 internationals.

Foord notched her own hat-trick in the 56th minute when she danced around an opponent on the by-line and nailed her shot from a tight angle.

The result thrust the Matildas to the top of Group A on six points, meaning all they need is a draw against Chinese Taipei next Wednesday to guarantee progression to the final stage of qualification in February.

Even with a loss the Matildas would either top the group or at least qualify as the best runner-up from the three Asian confederation groups.

The only concern from Sunday’s match was an injury to substitute Cortnee Vine, who came off in the 75th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring issue 10 minutes after coming on.

“It’s amazing to play here in front of a packed crowd,” Kerr told channel 10 after the match.

“I think everyone came out here and gave 100 per cent. We worked our butts off today, that’s for sure.”

The Matildas rested most of their biggest stars in Thursday’s 2-0 win against Iran, but they wheeled out a full-strength outfit against the Philippines in a match that would effectively decide the group winner.

Kerr, Foord, Mackenzie Arnold, Steph Catley and Fowler were among the 10 changes, and it didn’t take long for the floodgates to open.

Fowler opened the scoring in the 15th minute courtesy of a clever deflection from Foord.

And the crowd went into a frenzy when Kerr scored from close range in the 19th minute following a superb run by Foord, who beat two opponents before dishing off the assist.

Kerr turned provider for the next goal when she expertly controlled Fowler’s lobbed pass before dishing off to Foord to score in the 30th minute.

Foord added another three minutes later when she held off an opponent before sliding a shot past the goalkeeper as she was falling to ground.

Kerr made it 5-0 on the stroke of half-time when she found herself one-on-one against the goalkeeper and blasted the ball into the back of the net.

The Matildas skipper headed home Fowler’s cross just 24 seconds into the second half, and it was party time in the 56th minute when Foord evaded an opponent to secure her hat-trick.

Kerr, Hayley Raso, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Katrina Gorry were subbed off in the 65th minute with the job done, but substitute Clare Wheeler ensured the party continued with a 72nd-minute rocket from the edge of the box to secure her maiden international goal.

The world number 44 Philippines, coached by Western United boss Mark Torcaso, came from behind to beat Chinese Taipei 4-1 in their group stage opener, but they were simply no match for the Matildas.

Read how the match unfolded in our liveblog below.

Key events

Thanks and ciao

It’s been a joy bringing you tonight’s incredible performance from the Tillies. The teal away kit really does give them special powers.

Their final match against Chinese Taipei kicks off at 10:00pm AEDT on Wednesday night, and you bet your butts I’ll be back on the blog for what is hopefully another convincing outing from the gals.

Until then, have a great start to your week, and I’ll see you then!

Final thoughts

We couldn’t have asked for much more than that, could we?

Eight goals, including five in the first half. A clean sheet. Two hat-tricks. A record crowd.

The Matildas’ path towards qualification for the Paris Olympics next year seems like just a matter of time.

A completely dominant performance, especially from the returned World Cup heroes.

While the second-half fizzled out somewhat after a raft of changes, which is something the team will need to sort out moving into the third round of qualifying against much tougher opposition, for now there’s not much more that could’ve been better.

23 shots, 12 on target, 76% possession, 689 passes, 5 corners.

And a very, very happy Perth crowd.

Full-time: Australia 8 – 0 Philippines

93′ Sayer isn’t giving up!

The young midfielder comes charging into the six-yard box head-first, trying to connect with a fizzing cross from Carpenter from the byline.

But the ball is just too quick and Sayer – as well as everybody else – misses it completely.

92′ Emily Van Egmond could’ve capped it off

The Philippines are basically blue training cones now; they’re barely able to track back or keep up with the Matildas.

Emily Van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter exchange a couple passes, with the substitute kinda just walking towards the top of the box without any pressure. She has so much time to open her body up and take a shot, but for some reason tries to pass through to Foord, who’s standing offside anyway.

The ball trickles away. Weird moment.

Four minutes of stoppage time

And the Matildas are still hunting for a ninth goal, bless ’em.

89′ Chance!

A deep free kick by Catley finds the head of Amy Sayer this time, who flings her dark ponytail at it totally unchallenged near the six-yard area, but it’s an awkward connection and bounces well over the crossbar.

So still a ways to go

Hi Sam, just checked on Wikipedia and it’s about the 8th biggest crowd at Optus. After some AFL games, a Bledisloe Cup and a State of Origin.

PS. How’s your French?

– Mark

My French is very bad. The Duolingo owl is not happy with me.

But we’re one step closer to the Paris Olympics, so I think I might have to brush up…

Same

Wow… this is embarrassing…I got it wronger than I ever have.

– Natty

But honestly, I’m okay with being wrong if these are the kinds of performances and score-lines we get!

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Matildas defeat Iran 2-0 in first Olympic qualifier

Sam Kerr has come off the bench to score the clincher in front of her hometown fans in the Matildas’ 2-0 Olympic qualifier win over Iran in Perth.

In front of 18,798 fans on Thursday night, Ellie Carpenter opened the scoring in the 19th minute before Kerr sealed the deal with her 78th-minute tap-in.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson warned on the eve of the match that he wouldn’t be throwing his jet-lagged stars into the deep end, and a glimpse at the bench proved those words to be true.

Kerr, Mackenzie Arnold, Katrina Gorry, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Caitlin Foord, Stephanie Catley, Hayley Raso, Alanna Kennedy and Mary Fowler all started on the sideline.

With the scoreline still just 1-0 at the 65-minute mark in a match Australia were predicted to win easily, Gustavsson brought on Kerr, Catley and Fowler in a triple substitution.

The move worked a charm, with the trio joining forces to create Australia’s second goal.

Catley combined with Fowler for a one-two before firing a low pass across goal, allowing Kerr to complete an easy tap-in.

Foord, Raso, Arnold and Gorry were among the unused substitutes.

The Matildas enjoyed 82 per cent possession in the first half, and a neat run down the right from Cortnee Vine helped set up the opener.

Vine’s cross made its way to Charlotte Grant, who passed it off to Carpenter to rifle the ball home for just her fourth goal in 70 appearances for Australia.

Ellie Carpenter opened the scoring for Australia.(AAP Image: Richard Wainwright)

Carpenter almost had a second in the 31st minute when she was played in and only had the goalkeeper to beat, but her shot from an angle was well wide of the target.

Iran’s players did their best to waste time whenever the chance arose.

Theatrical rolls on the ground were a common theme in the first half, much to the frustration of Matildas.

Adding to Australia’s frustrations was their own inability to finish off their chances.

Kerr received a rousing reception when she was brought on in the 65th minute.

The star Chelsea striker fired a 72nd-minute strike over the crossbar, but she made no mistake from her tap-in six minutes later.

Kerr had a golden chance to score again in the 93rd minute, but she couldn’t keep her strike low enough.

Sam Kerr with crowd

Sam Kerr performed in front of her home crowd.(AAP Image: Richard Wainwright)

In the earlier match, the Philippines came from behind to post a 4-1 win over Taiwan, firing them to the top of the group.

Yi-yun Hsu opened the scoring for Taiwan in the 47th minute as the underdogs dreamed of a an upset.

But a double to Sarina Bolden and goals to Katrina Guillou and Chandler McDaniel meant it ended up being an easy win for the Philippines.

The Matildas face off against the Philippines on Sunday and Taiwan next Wednesday.

Australia must finish on top of the group to guarantee passage through to the final round of Olympic qualifying in February.

Look back on our live coverage below. 

Key events

Final thoughts

The Matildas get their Olympic qualifying campaign off to a good start, with Ellie Carpenter and Sam Kerr getting on the score-sheet, but it was a much tougher task than perhaps what they were expecting.

Iran sat deep and defended like their lives depended on it, throwing themselves in front of every cross and pass aimed towards their penalty area, with goalkeeper Zahra Khajavi having a stand-out performance.

It was an experimental side from Tony Gustavsson, with several big names starting on the bench, and there was a noticeable lack of chemistry and cohesion among some of the newer players.

The young Amy Sayer was the most impressive newbie, providing some dynamism and spark through midfield, while Emily Van Egmond and Clare Wheeler offered some much-needed calmness and control.

Yet the Matildas struggled to find avenues to goal, with Cortnee Vine and Tameka Yallop having a couple bright moments, though it was Carpenter who eventually found the opener after a scramble in the box.

The jammy first half from Australia just made the quality of their World Cup stars even more obvious, with Mary Fowler and Steph Catley in particular adding a different level of class and choreography to the contest.

It’s always a challenge breaking down deep defensive blocks, which is something the Matildas have traditionally struggled with, especially in Asian competitions.

With two games left against opponents who could pull out similar tactics, Australia will have to be smarter and more patient in their attacking phases, and far more clinical in front of goal.

But in the end, a win is a win, and this was a game as much about shaking off the rust as it was getting the three points.

Australia will next face the Philippines on Sunday afternoon at Optus Stadium, kicking off at 6:10pm AEDT.

And I’ll be back on the blog to take you through it all!

Thanks so much for joining us tonight, and go Tillies!

Full-time: Australia 2 – 0 Iran

99′ Australia 2 – 0 Iran

Steph Catley is standing over her second corner in quick succession.

It skims off the head of Kerr at the near post, but somehow clatters into Emily Van Egmond who’s just… standing in the way?

If that counts as one of the team’s few shots on target, I’m gonna laugh.

Big kudos to Zahra Khajavi

needs to be some credit to the Iranian keeper – she hasn’t stopped throwing herself at everything and definitely helped keep it close.

– Campbell

All the sitting-down aside, she’s absolutely been the reason Iran have kept this game to 2-0.

96′ Iran on the attack

Negin Zandi – Iran’s most dangerous player – picks up the ball and drives forward, feeding it out to her winger on the left side.

Zandi is the only red shirt that makes her way into the box, surrounded by four Matildas, waiting for a returned cross.

But it never comes. The ball from her team-mate is poor and easily intercepted and cleared away.

93′ It’s hard to keep up

Australia just keep attacking and Iran keep defending.

Ellie Carpenter had a chance before that went just wide, and Alanna Kennedy just had a header fizz past the wrong side of the post.

Iran haven’t done much other than throw their bodies in the way of every Matildas shot, which tallies 24 now, though only six have been on target.

It’s a lot, fam. My poor fingers are nubs.

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11 minutes of stoppage time!

Bench depth

Hello Sam – I know it’s a qualifier and not a friendly, but it seems a tad harsh on the Iran to bring Sam, Mary and Steph on at the same time…

– Mike

Imagine being Iran. You’re probably exhausted, you’re a goal down, but you’ve had a couple glimpses of goal, you just need one little opening to be able to capitalise on an error…

…and then Sam Kerr comes on the field.

I’d just give up then and there. But that’s why I’m here tapping away at my computer and they’re out on the field!

86′ Wave after wave after wave

The Matildas just keep on coming, working down both wings, trying to pierce passes through the middle to Kerr.

The noise of the crowd is noticeably louder now that Australia’s World Cup heroes are out there.

Fowler, Catley and Kerr have undoubtedly added more energy and class to the Matildas going forward. You can see their chemistry already humming away.

Won’t be surprised if we see a third goal scored by the end of the game based on the number of chances those three have already created between them.

Anyone taking bets on the amount of added time?

The medics are working overtime

– Jack

There’s gotta be at least 10 minutes that have been used up by Iran’s players sitting on the grass, right?

83′ Australia substitution

That’s the last contribution from Amy Sayer tonight, who’s had a great game, I reckon. Would love to see her again when Australia face the Philippines on Sunday afternoon.

She’s replaced by Kyra Cooney-Cross.

81′ Chance Australia!

Oh my goodness, what a pass from Mary Fowler.

The Manchester City midfielder has been walking on air since coming onto the park, dancing between players and threading space-warping passes through lines.

She twists and brings an aerial ball down onto her foot balletically, seeing a run from Amy Sayer from deep midfield cutting through Iran’s defensive line.

Fowler anticipates the run and delivers a gorgeous reverse pass that takes out three Iranian defenders, right into Sayer’s charging path.

The midfielder shoots but Iran’s goalkeeper sticks out a strong left foot and it’s thumped away.

So nice to watch.

78′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

AND IT’S SAM KERR! ON HER RETURN TO HER HOME-TOWN!

The substitutes made it look way too easy: a simple one-two between Mary Fowler and Steph Catley sees a low, hard Catley cross towards the back post right into the cushioned foot of Kerr.

That’s international goal number 65 for Kerr. Different gravy.

2-0.

73′ Iran’s keeper is down

She’s holding her head after that collision earlier, sitting back down in the grass as Catley is standing over another corner.

The crowd isn’t holding back now: they loudly boo the Iranian player as the physios come back onto the field to hopefully perform a concussion test.

Catley already looks pissed. She’s bouncing the ball around with her other hand on her hip.

The goalkeeper eventually stands up and gestures around to her players like nothing is wrong.

Annoying.

Sports content to make you think… or allow you not to. A newsletter delivered each Friday.

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Investment in women’s and girl’s sport to triple following the Matildas’ record-breaking performance

The Matildas might’ve missed out on a place in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, but they’ve certainly won Australia over, with one capital city handing over the keys to the city and vowing to build a statue in their honour. 

Excited roars echoed across Brisbane’s Riverstage on Sunday morning, with a crowd of fans gathering to celebrate the record-breaking football team.

The team — which features a huge number of Queenslanders — were joined on stage by coach Tony Gustavsson and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, donned in green and gold Tillies merch.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk thanked the Matildas for bringing the nation together.(ABC News)

Ms Palaszczuk encouraged the audience to give a “mighty Queensland cheer” for Sam Kerr and her team, as well as the Matildas who came before them and “paved the way”. 

“They have proven, it’s not the shoes you stand in, it’s what you stand for that matters — and the Matildas stand for something; fair play, a fair go for women and for girls across Australia,” the premier said. 

“Their boots have stepped across a nation and united us all, they have shown girls everywhere that anything is possible.

“The Matildas have done Australia proud and we say thank you.” 

In a bid to “turn inspiration into participation”, Ms Palaszczuk vowed to triple investment into improving female facilities at local sporting clubs. 

“We’re going to increase the legacy funding for women’s football, including upgrades to major venues where football is played across Queensland,” she told the cheering crowd. 

“But wait, there’s one more thing — as a lasting tribute to the 2023 Matildas, we will build a statue at Suncorp Stadium. 

“There are plenty there, celebrating our male sporting champions, it’s time we celebrated women as well … you deserve your place amongst the greatest.”

Ms Palaszczuk presented the team with a photo and plaque commemorating “that heart-stopping moment” when Australia faced France in the quarterfinal shoot-out. 

Sam Kerr helped the premier unveil the framed photo, which shows the Matildas celebrating a win.(Supplied)

Captain Kerr said the gesture, from the city that hosted the team’s final game this World Cup, and the fans gathered to celebrate was “amazing”. 

“I think the team deserves it, and it sounds like the crowd loves it,” she said. 

“We would’ve played this World Cup with one person in the crowd, so for you to pack the stadiums out every game, it’s been a dream come true and we can’t thank you enough.

“[We] definitely felt the love, the fans outside our hotel, outside the stadium, sending messages, wearing our jerseys … we see everything, we appreciate everything. 

“It’s been the best four weeks of our lives.”

Sam kerr and Haley Raso celebrate

The Matildas have become a household name across Australia.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

When asked why this team had such a substantial impact on the nation, coach Gustavsson said it had to do with the values of its members. 

“I think the values that they stand for, not just the way they play football but the way they carry themselves … they’re authentic, they’re true, they’re passionate, and they play with love,” he said. 

“They connect to people, and I think that’s why they’re such a special team.

“I’ve coached a lot of teams, I’ve been to a lot of tournaments, but this is something else, this is just unique.”

Brisbane gifts Matildas keys to the city

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner told the crowd he loves to see the handmade signs held by fans at Matildas games because they “say so much”. 

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner speaks into a microphone

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the Matildas have united and inspired Australia.(ABC News)

“The love, the care, the effort that goes into that … it’s a reminder that sport, like nothing else, has the ability to unite and inspire us all,” he said. 

“It has the ability to break down barriers … but sport itself doesn’t do that, sport provides a stage, but what’s a stage without the players?

“We’ve heard the figures on this World Cup, and just how it has blown all of the records out of the water [and] there’s actually one team that’s done that more than any other team that’s played — the Matildas.

“But these things — the attendance records, the viewership — they don’t show the full picture. 

“How do you measure the inspirational effect that this team has had?”

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner stands with Matildas who hold key to the city

The Matildas accepting Brisbane’s keys to the city.(ABC News)

Responding to an excited audience member who called out that it wasn’t possible, Mr Schrinner said “that’s right, you can’t, it’s too big”. 

The lord mayor pointed to the Matildas slogan — Til It’s Done — saying the celebration wasn’t over yet. 

“This is just the beginning,” he said. 

“Words are never enough — but today, on behalf of the city of Brisbane, on behalf of the people of Brisbane, it’s my honour to give [the Matildas] the keys to the city.” 

Mr Schrinner described the gesture as “the greatest honour that a city can bestow on any person or any team”.

“But let’s be honest, this team doesn’t need any keys, they’ve smashed down the doors [and] ceilings,” he added.

Queensland the ‘heart of football’

Minister for Sport and self-confessed Tillies fan, Anika Wells, thanked the crowd for their role in “the greatest World Cup of any code, ever”. 

“This has been a transformative experience for Australia,” she said. 

The Matildas on stage in Brisbane

Minister for Sport Anika Wells said the Matildas delivered “the greatest World Cup of any code, ever”.(ABC News: Jess Stewart)

“I think the premier will back me when I say I think we can declare Queensland the new heart of football.

“My friend told me that he took his [daughter] to the under nine’s training the other night and, on the pitch next door, there were two 16-year-old boys playing and they were pretending to be Macca Arnold and Cortnee Vine.” 

The Matildas dance on stage with Nikki Webster

Both the crowd and the Matildas jumped up to dance to Nikki Webster’s Strawberry Kisses.(ABC News)

The minister referred to the one-in-a-generation moment “where the entire country is beside itself with delirious joy”, similar to that of the 2000 Olympic Games where Cathy Freeman won gold and home-grown star Nikki Webster performed.

In a fitting tribute to the last time Australia hosted the Olympics — in the city tasked with organising the 2023 event — the pop sensation took the stage to surprise the Matildas.

Webster performed the team’s favourite song, her iconic Strawberry Kisses live onstage, sharing the mic with the Tillies as they belted out the famous chorus.

The Matildas huddle around Nikki Webster

Nikki Webster’s iconic song has hyped the Matildas up as they progressed through the Women’s World Cup.(ABC News)

Upgrades to Queensland facilities

The legacy funding announced by the premier today will go towards upgrades at Queensland facilities that acted as training sites and base camps for teams that competed in the World Cup:

  • Perry Park — $150,000 for pitch and site facility upgrades
  • Spencer Park — $150,000 for pitch upgrades
  • Lions Stadium, Richlands — $1 million towards universal change rooms and field irrigation
  • Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex — $248,004 for pitch upgrades, a viewing platform and ancillary facilities

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