Matildas' path to Paris becomes clearer

The Matildas will have to come through a five-match qualifying programme to reach the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Their task was confirmed with the Asian Football Confederation outlining the path to Paris ahead of Thursday's qualifying first round draw.

Australia will sit out April's first stage, which features 26 teams being whittled down to seven, as they are one of five seeded teams.

Sam Kerr's women will join the successful seven along with Japan, China, North Korea and South Korea in the second stage. That will consist of three four-nation groups, each meeting at a single venue, with each country playing each other once.

The three group winners, and best runner-up, will then be drawn into pairs for home-and-away play-off ties with the two winners going to Paris.

Australia reached the semi-finals in the last Olympics, in Tokyo, losing 1-0 to Sweden. They then lost the bronze medal match 4-3 to the United States.

This was their fourth participation and the first time they had reached the last four.

However, qualifying for Tokyo was easier than it will be for Paris as neither Japan, being qualified as hosts, nor North Korea, who withdrew, were involved. Australia faced Vietnam in the Tokyo play-off, winning 7-1 on aggregate.

Thursday's draw, in Kuala Lumpur, features four pots seeded according to FIFA rankings. They will be split into five groups of four and two groups of three.

The Afghanistan women's team, which is based in Australia - where it plays in the Victorian state league - as women's sport in their home nation has ceased under Taliban rule, is in Pot 4 even though the exiled team is yet to be recognised by FIFA.

Pot 1 (teams ranked 6-12): Vietnam, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Philippines, India.

Pot 2 (13-19): Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nepal, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia

Pot 3 (20-26): Palestine, Singapore, Turkmenistan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste.

Pot 4 (27-30 + 1 non-ranked team): Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan.