Football 3 years ago

Rio in reach for touring Matildas: Kennedy

  • Rio in reach for touring Matildas: Kennedy

They've still got to get through some punishing qualifiers, but Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy is quietly confident the team have a solid shot of breaking their 12-year Olympics drought.

Australia's World Cup heroes depart for China next week for what will be the squad's final opportunity to play together before February's crucial qualifying tournament in Osaka.

In Japan they'll come up against Japan, North Korea, China, South Korea and Vietnam, with only two teams booking a ticket to Rio.

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Kennedy said there are no illusions about the enormity of the task, especially given Australia hasn't made an Olympic appearance since the Athens 2004 Games.

But she said their inspiring run to the World Cup quarter-finals in Canada, where she played in all five games, demonstrated just how much coach Alen Stajcic's current group are capable of.

"We proved at the World Cup that we're a competitive team amongst the top teams in the world, so we are quietly confident," Kennedy told AAP.

"But also that has to come together once we are at the qualifiers.

"I have a lot of confidence in the team that we can push on and you'll see us in Rio."

With last month's pay-related boycott of their US tour now firmly behind them, Kennedy said the focus is well and truly on the field.

The 20-year-old was back in camp last week at the Australian Institute of Sport to prepare for the 10-day tour during which they will play matches against China and England and possibly a third opponent.

"It'll be good for us not only to play together again, but for Staj to have a look at the squad and for us to have some international games under our belt," Kennedy said at Sydney Children's Hospital, where she and Sydney FC teammates Amy Harrison and Sunny Franco were visiting sick kids.

"For fitness levels the W-League will help with preparation, but the international games are the ones that really are the big test so it's very important."

The Matildas had been scheduled to tour the US last month but were involved in a pay dispute with Football Federation Australia and cancelled the trip.

They have since accepted an interim deal and committed to the China tour.

Stajcic has retained the bulk of his World Cup squad, making only a few changes including the inclusion of Harrison, who has one prior cap earlier this year against New Zealand.

"It's a bit surreal," she said.

"I thought I did fairly well at camp and was just hoping. But when I saw my name I got a bit of a rush and I'm so excited."

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