'Matildas Mania' is still in full swing, with a record crowd turning out for their Olympic qualifier against Philippines on Sunday in Perth. Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord both scored hat-tricks as the Matildas all-but guaranteed passage to the next round of qualifying with an 8-0 thrashing.
A sell-out crowd of 59,155 attended the game at Optus Stadium - which is a record for a non-Women's World Cup game in Australia. If there were any fears that the interest in the Matildas would fall off a cliff after their historic run to the World Cup semi-finals, it certainly hasn't happened yet.
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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 international games. Foord then completed her own hat-trick in the 56th minute when she nailed a shot from a tight angle after dancing around some defenders.
The result sends the Matildas to the top of Group A on six points. It means all they need to do is draw against Taiwan at HBF Park on Wednesday night to guarantee progression to the final stage of qualification in February. Even a loss could still see the Matildas top their group or at least qualify as the best runner-up from the three Asian confederation groups.
But coach Tony Gustavsson hinted after the match that he will resist the temptation to rest his biggest stars against Taiwan - who lost to the Philippines. Gustavsson fielded a second-string XI for the first game against Iran, before unleashing his strongest line-up against the Philippines.
— FIFA (@FIFAcom) October 29, 2023
"I said it straight away in the circle that they should be extremely proud about the performance but also that they need to be extremely professional when it comes to recovery, because this is also a rehearsal," Gustavsson said on Sunday. "If you want to go all the way to the Olympics, this is how tight the games will be in an Olympics. Only 48 hours to recover and then another game comes up.
"So we need to be extremely professional. Physical and mental recovery is key now and then I'm probably going to have some some really in depth and tough discussions with my tech staff about how we line up the team on Wednesday."
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Gustavsson said the growing depth in his squad meant there would be some players who miss a spot in the starting XI despite being in form. "The problem is that I have more than 10 starters now because there's more than 10 players that actually deserve to start," he said. "So that's going to be the conversation. How are we going to start the game, how we're going to finish the games?"
Cortnee Vine looks all-but certain to miss the Taiwan clash after suffering a suspected hamstring injury in the win over the Philippines. "They're going to assess her again in the morning," Gustavsson said. "It's too early to say if she's ruled for the last game, but with my experience, I think there's very little chance that she will be ready."
Gustavsson declared that the way his players linked up in attack against the Philippines was the best he'd seen during his three-year tenure. "I think (the performance against the Philippines) was a little bit of a crossroads moment for this team to be honest, in terms of what we want to be about," he revealed. "We want to be a top team in the world and be able to play like favourites and be able to play parked buses, and we proved today that we have taken massive steps."
Awesome to see this happening…..just brilliant
— Northstorm (@Northstorm20) October 29, 2023
This is crazy, I am so proud to have been in the crowd tonight, the Matilda’s will win gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
— Ryan (@RyanFMorriss) October 29, 2023
— Jo (@glorygirl96) October 29, 2023
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