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"Australians just have to be proud": Buoyant Matildas eye maiden medal in Rio

Soccer

The Australian women’s football team qualified for Olympic Games in style with a 2-1 win over old nemesis North Korea in Osaka last night, and coach Alen Stajcic says his side is now capable of winning a first-ever medal in Rio.

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A fourth win in as many matches in the notoriously tough Asian qualifying region saw the Matildas end a 12-year drought against the side that kept them out of the past two Olympics.

Michelle Heyman and Katrina Gorry scored in each half, 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’ll play in Wednesday’s inconsequential final-round match, while London 2012 silver medallists Japan suffered shock elimination.

Australians just have to be proud of this team

Stajcic says the Matildas, whose best achievement was a quarter-final finish at Athens 2004, are in the hunt for silverware in Rio.

“Our goal is not just to qualify for Rio, but to get a medal, and we are aiming for a gold medal,” said Stajcic.

“I said before we left that whoever qualifies through Asia is a medal chance… this group is capable of doing anything.”

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.53.55 amStajcic said his side, who were eliminated at 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.”

Australia who only needed a draw to qualify on Monday were pushed all the way by a North Korea who needed a win to keep alive their hopes of reaching a third successive Olympics.

“The players were so nervous today and over the weekend,” said Stajcic of his side.

“North Korea had a lot of rhythm and play, but somehow with sheer guts and determination [we won]… the willpower and heart and spirit of this team is something I have never seen before.

“Australians just have to be proud of this team, because it is a historic moment for football and women’s football in particular.”

-AAP

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