Matildas Fever Hits Perth Before Olympic Qualifiers

When the Matildas last played in Perth in 2018, a total of 7549 fans came out to watch them overpower Thailand 5-0.

Date: 23-10-2023 10:00

Matildas Fever Hits Perth Before Olympic Qualifiers

When the Matildas last played in Perth in 2018, a total of 7549 fans came out to watch them destroy Thailand 5-0.

Fast forward five years, and about 100,000 fans will watch them across three games as they take the first step towards securing a berth at the 2024 Olympics.

The Matildas are now a national treasure, rubber stamped by their heroics in reaching the semi-finals at this year’s World Cup.

And there’s definitely not been any hangover from fans after the World Cup party ended, with Tony Gustavsson’s side to play in front of sellout crowds in Perth over the next week and a half despite taking on low-calibre opponents.

The Matildas will face off against world No.63 Iran at HBF Park on Thursday, world No.44 Philippines at Optus Stadium on Sunday, and world No.38 Taiwan next week.

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The two games at HBF Park, which has a capacity of 20,500 that can be increased to 22,500 with temporary seating, are already sold out.

The Philippines match was also meant to be played at HBF Park, but the rush for tickets resulted in it being moved to the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium.

With that game also expected to be sold out, about 100,000 fans will have gone through the turnstiles by the time the Matildas disband again next week.

“If you would have asked us five years ago if we thought that was going to be possible, I don’t think anyone would have said yes,” Matildas midfielder Emily van Egmond said in Perth on Monday.

“From when I first came in to now is amazing. I hope it continues to go in the right direction.

“I think the World Cup was something special.

“And then to be able to come back together again and see the hype – it’s amazing the Australian public are getting behind this team.

“The support was huge for us throughout that tournament, so hopefully it’s huge for us in these qualifiers, because it’s important for us to have strong performances.”

Captain and hometown hero Sam Kerr and vice-captain Steph Catley headline the 22-strong squad in Perth for the Olympic qualifiers.

World Cup duo Aivi Luik and Kyah Simon are unavailable due to injury, while there’s still some doubt surrounding goalkeeper Lydia Williams after was hurt while playing for Melbourne Victory on Sunday.

Van Egmond has become a big name in her own right.

The 30-year-old sits fourth on the Matildas’ all-time games played list, and she recently won the NWSL Shield with her American team San Diego Wave.

But no one in the Matildas’ set-up comes close to the drawing power of Chelsea star Kerr, who will be mobbed by fans when she arrives in the west.

“I dare say when Sam Kerr lands it’s going to be a frenzy for her,” van Egmond said.

“I won’t be walking with her to any coffee shops.”

The Matildas must top their Asian group to be guaranteed passage to the next phase of qualifying in February.

-AAP




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