Matildas ready for Games qualifiers start

Ed Jackson
Clare Polkinghorne believes Australia's rescheduled Olympics qualifiers will work in their favour

The tight turnaround in their reshuffled and relocated Olympics qualifiers hold no fears for Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne.

Australia will start the third stage of qualifying for Tokyo 2020 this week in Sydney in a four-nation tournament which has been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The outbreak firstly resulted in the Group B matches involving Australia, China, Thailand and Taiwan being moved from China to Australia.

Organisers then had to shuffle match schedules after the Chinese team was placed in isolation at a Brisbane hotel after their arrival in Australia last week.

It means Australia will play three matches in six days, with just two days between next Monday's game against Thailand and main group rivals China on Wednesday, February 12.

Those tight turnarounds are nothing new to 31-year-old Polkinghorne, a veteran of Australia's successful Rio 2016 qualifying campaign.

"Our qualifiers last time around was five games in 10 days and we handled that as a group so I'm sure that's not going to be a problem," Polkinghorne said.

The uncertainty over the qualifying tournament has turned into a blessing for the Matildas, who now have home advantage and a far more stable preparation than their rivals - having been in camp in Sydney throughout the alterations.

Superstar forward Sam Kerr has had extra recovery time to shake off a quadriceps strain suffered playing for her new English club Chelsea against Arsenal last month.

Polkinghorne was confident she and her teammates had not been distracted by the off-field concerns of the past week.

"It's nice to have a little bit more certainty around the games and what days we're going to be playing," she said.

"We're ready and we're looking forward to getting out there and playing."

The top two teams from Group B will face the top two teams from Group A - featuring hosts South Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam - in two-legged home and away playoffs.

The winners of those playoffs will join hosts Japan as Asia's representatives for the Olympics.