FOOTBALL: Australia will look to build on their best ever Women’s World Cup finish as they turn their attention to qualifying for Rio 2016.
The Matildas were knocked out of the tournament on Sunday after going down to defending World Champions Japan in the dying minutes of their quarter final clash.
They had progressed through to the final eight after some strong performances saw them escape the ‘Group of Death’ and then defeat the highly fancied Brazilians in the round of sixteen.
Despite the disappointing 1-0 loss to the Japanese, the Australians were confident that there were plenty of positive signs as they build towards the Rio Olympics.
“I’m so proud of the girls,” said midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight
“The way we fought until the end, the way we did make history and did so by winning a knockout game.
“We have so much potential.”
Focus will now shift to qualifying for the Rio Games where the Australian women will look to return to Olympic competition for the first time since Athens 2004.
“We have to play a mini-Olympics trying to qualify,’’ Matildas coach Alan Stajcic said.
“We have to play all the Asian teams and there’s five heavyweights there battling it out for two spots and that’s going to be hard."
The qualification tournament will take place in February 2016 and feature four teams that made the knockout phase of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Australia, Japan, South Korea and China.
They will be joined by North Korea and a final qualifier in what will be a difficult path to Rio 2016.
However after taking it to some of the world’s best teams in Canada, Stajcic is confident that if his side makes the Olympics they can challenge for Australia’s first ever Olympic medal in football.
"I'm proud of how we performed in a World Cup and I know there's so much growth.
"We don't want to compete with the best - we want to beat the best.
"By the time the Olympics come around, we want to take some more steps forward."
“If we get to the Olympics there will be 12 teams there and there’s no reason why we can’t improve even further and challenge for a medal.”
Lisa De Vanna Australian co-captain for the 2015 World Cup was a member of the 2004 Australian Olympic Team as was goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri.