The Matildas don’t just want to claim Australia’s first Olympic soccer medal, they are targeting the gold medal after charging through qualifying.
The Australian women clinched their spot in Rio when they beat North Korea 2-1 on Monday night in Osaka for their fourth win in as many matches in the notoriously tough Asian qualifying region.
It ended a 12-year drought against the side that kept the Matildas out of the past two Olympics. Coach Alen Stajcic says the Matildas, whose best achievement was a quarter-final finish at Athens in 2004, are ready to make Australian Olympic history.
“Our goal is not just to qualify for Rio, but to get a medal, and we are aiming for a gold medal,” Stajcic said. “I said before we left that whoever qualifies through Asia is a medal chance. This group is capable of doing anything.”
Stajcic said his side, who reached the quarter-finals at last year’s World Cup, have grown over the course of the Asian qualifying tournament.
“The thing we have seen this week is this group mature,” he said. “We always had the weapons in attack, but now we have shown we have maturity, composure, hard work, discipline and commitment, and I think we have the makings of a world class team.”
Michelle Heyman and Katrina Gorry scored in each half against North Korea, either side of a Kim Su Gyong goal which briefly drew the two sides level in a tough match that occasionally threatened to boil over.
Australia will be joined in Rio by China, who they will play in tonight’s inconsequential final-round match, while London 2012 silver medallists Japan suffered a shock elimination.