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Rio Olympics 2016: Matildas name squad for 'torturous' campaign to qualify for Games

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Imagine if the Socceroos had to finish in the top two of a group including; Germany, Brazil, Wales, Croatia and Northern Ireland with all games played in just 10 days to qualify for a major tournament. Based on recent rankings, that's the equivalent of what the Matildas are facing to reach the 2016 Olympic Games in what Alen Stajcic describes as a "torturous" qualifying campaign.

Forget the group of death at last year's Women's World Cup, the final qualification stage in Asia for the 2016 Olympic games is much harder according to Stajcic who faces a gruelling, intensive tournament to reach the shores of Rio de Janeiro.

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The Matildas must finish in the top two of a group with last year's World Cup runners-up Japan, sixth ranked North Korea, 17th and 18th ranked China and South Korea respectively and the rapidly improving Vietnam who've moved up to 29th in the world.

Australia's final hopes of being represented at football in the Olympic games for the first time in eight years rest upon the shoulders of our best national team but qualifying might seem harder than winning a medal once there. For the Matildas to see the beaches of Copacabana, they must survive one of the most intense qualifying tournaments in world football involving five games against five world class opponents in such a short period.

It's a task that overshadows their Group of USA, Sweden and Nigeria at last year's World Cup especially given the condensed squad of just 20 players, according to Stajcic.

"I think so [it is more difficult than the World Cup]," he said. "The quality of opposition is probably on par but the schedule is gruelling."


Japan were runners-up in Canada last year, China reached the quarter-finals and South Korea were knocked out in the second round. North Korea would likely have gone far at that World Cup had it not been for their suspension due to doping. It brings into question Asia's allocation of only two spots at the 12-team format of the Olympic Games

Speaking at the announcement of his squad on Wednesday, Stajcic says the format is fair while tough but believes the timing might benefit Australia whose players are more match fit than rivals.

"It's an unbelievably tough schedule but it's fair. It's fair for every team, Every team has to go through this schedule. Our advantage is that our players are coming off a season, the other teams have had an off-season so they're all doing pre-season in their clubs and we know there's nothing like playing games," he says.

There are few surprises in the squad with forward Sam Kerr the notable omission from the squad that still boasts six players capable of playing in the front three, indicative of the Matildas intended style of play.

Captain Lisa De Vanna says the pain of missing two previous Olympic Games serves as motivations for her and co-captain Clare Polkinghorne

"Clare and I have missed out on it twice so we've been burnt twice from it. It's a different mentality this time around, I think we're better prepared. we did a bit more soul searching about it and we know exactly what's expected," De Vanna said.

Matildas squad: Lydia Williams, Larissa Crummer, Caitlin Cooper, Clare Polkinghorne, Laura Alleway, Chloe Logarzo, Stephanie Catley, Elise Kellond-Knight, Caitlin Foord, Emily van Egmond, Lisa De Vanna, Casey Dumont, Tameka Butt, Alanna Kennedy, Emily Gielnik, Michelle Heyman, Kyah Simon, Mackenzie Arnold, Katrina Gorry, Aivi Luik.