Why Matildas must smash lowly rivals despite blow as star trio out of Olympic qualifier

The Matildas can ill-afford to take their foot off the pedal against Chinese Taipei on Wednesday night in Perth if they want to give themselves the best possible chance of qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games.

The Matildas have effectively locked in top spot in Group A and a place in February’s third round of qualifying, in which the four top-ranked Asian Football Confederation nations will be whittled down to the two who qualify for the Olympics.

It’s likely that seedings will be used to determine which of the teams play each other in the parallel home and away battles to decide which two nations are the AFC representatives in Paris.

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Goal difference is therefore set to be crucial if the Matildas want to avoid Group B leaders South Korea or Group C leaders Japan in February.

The Matildas are currently one goal better off in the for and against stakes than Japan, who are also on six points heading into its final group game against Vietnam.

South Korea is tied on points with North Korea but well ahead on goal difference, and likely to win the group but finish as the third seed. Therefore whichever of Australia and Japan performs best should face the best-performing runner-up (currently North Korea), rather than a group winner (currently South Korea).

Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley said her side just had to “control what we can control”.

“For us, that is winning, and that is doing it however we need to and scoring as many goals as we can,” Catley told reporters on Tuesday.

“We will focus on the task at hand, and make sure that we get ourselves in the best position possible.”

And they will have to do so on Wednesday night without talented trio Ellie Carpenter, Emily van Egmond and Cortnee Vine.

A deal was done to release Carpenter and van Egmond back to their clubs early.

The absence of right-back Carpenter will demand at least one change to Australia’s starting team for coach Tony Gustavsson, who was weighing up how many minutes to play his best players in the third clash in a week.

Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy. Picture: James Worsfold/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Carpenter’s French outfit Lyon return to action on November 6 against Paris FC, van Egmond – who was used off the bench in Australia’s 8-0 weekend thrashing of the Philippines – is about enter the US National Women‘s Soccer League playoffs with the San Diego Wave.

Football Australia (FA) confirmed deals had already been done for the pair to return to their clubs before the Matildas’ third and final Group A game.

“Following agreements between Football Australia and their clubs, San Diego Wave and Olympique Lyon, van Egmond and Carpenter arrived earlier than normal into assembly and as a result have departed earlier,” FA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Carpenter played all 90 minutes in the Matildas’ opening clash against Iran last week and against the Philippines, and was among Australia‘s best in both victories.

Sydney FC’s Vine has also left camp after injuring her hamstring after coming on a substitute against the Philippines.

As per Asian Football Confederation qualifier regulations, no additional players will be registered in the Matildas‘ squad for Wednesday’s Chinese Taipei clash.

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