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Mackenzie Arnold sparks staggering scenes as Matildas qualify for Paris Olympics

'Mackenzie Mania' was in full force as the Matildas qualified for the Olympic Games in style.

Pictured here, Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold.

Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold says she's been blown away by the support of Aussie football fans after Marvel Stadium was decked out in purple on Wednesday night. Arnold's Matildas qualified for the Paris Olympic Games later this year after a crushing 10-0 drubbing of Uzbekistan in the second leg of their qualifier, which wrapped up a 13-0 aggregate victory after last weekend's first leg in Tashkent.

Veteran striker Michelle Heyman scored four goals in the rout - including a 15-minute first half hat-trick - as the Aussies delighted the massive 54,120-strong crowd gathered to watch in Melbourne. The stands were awash with purple in tribute to the iconic goalkeeper jersey that Arnold has made so famous for the national team.

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This week, supporters were finally able to purchase the purple Matildas goalkeeper jerseys, with many fans left fuming after online stores sold out in minutes. The purple jerseys were available to purchase at merchandise shops at the ground on Wednesday night - as well as select retailers earlier that day - and fans took up the opportunity to snap them up in numbers.

Matildas fans, pictured here wearing the purple goalkeeper jerseys.
The Matildas crowd was awash with purple goalkeeper jerseys. Image: Getty

Mackenzie Arnold blown away by support of fans

Videos on social media showed long lines of fans waiting at merchandise shops to buy the jerseys and images of Matildas supporters decked out in purple around Marvel Stadium were quickly circulating around the internet. Speaking after Wednesday night's thumping win, Arnold said "couldn't believe" the level of support from the army of purple Matildas fans.

"Yeah it's surreal, coming into the stadium and seeing them walk in with my jerseys on is something I probably never thought would happen," Arnold said after the game. "To see how far goalkeeping has come in the women's game in general and to see the fans jump on the back of the has been absolutely amazing. Honestly, seeing the purple jerseys inside here makes me so happy, I actually can't believe it."

Arnold's Aussies had one foot on the plane to Paris after Saturday night's first leg and effectively wrapped up the tie inside the opening 17 minutes. A first minute own goal for Uzbekistan started the rout before Heyman's quick-fire hat-trick made it 4-0. Caitlin Foord, Kaitlyn Torpey, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso and Amy Sayer also got on the scoresheet in an extraordinary win.

"You could sense the focus in the group when the game started today," coach Tony Gustavsson said after the match. "They were on a mission. Very good training session yesterday and then I know for a fact that these players feed off of the energy in the stands as well and that was massive tonight. You can see we've come out flying from from minute one."

Michelle Heyman scores four in Matildas rout

Recalled 35-year-old striker Heyman - who also scored in Tashkent, replaced Emily van Egmond for her first international start since March 2018 and made it count in a stunning opening to the game. The striker's movement and guile proved far too hot for Uzbekistan to handle and her hat-trick was just rewards.

"The job description for me as a forward is to just get in the box and score goals," Heyman said. "And that's all I wanted to do was get out there and try and be in the best position every single time that ball got crossed in, to make sure I was there to finish. When I looked at Tony after the third one he was smiling and I even said, 'I've got five in me - like, hold on!'"

Seen here, Matildas striker Michelle Heyman.
Michelle Heyman was hungry for more goals despite scoring four in the Matildas' thumping win. Pic: Getty

Second-gamer Torpey had a hand in three goals and the 23-year-old scored her first international goal to make a compelling case for selection in the 18-player Olympic squad. Rarely troubled in goals, Arnold made a strong save to deny Uzbekistan captain Lyudmila Karachik in the 28th minute, with the Matildas 5-0 up and flying at that point.

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. Heyman then added her fourth and the Matildas' eighth goal on the stroke of halftime when Uzbekistan failed to deal with a ball in the box and Torpey squared it for Heyman to head home.

With the tie as good as over, Gustavsson made a raft of changes for the second half and the Matildas could have been forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal. As it was, Raso rifled home in the 68th while Sayer's first international goal in the fourth minute of added time completed the rout.

with AAP

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