Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Osaka: An elated Alen Stajcic has hailed the Matildas’ 2016 Olympic Games qualification as one of the greatest days in the history of Australian football.
Goals from Michelle Heyman and Katrina Gorry saw Stajcic’s side secure a 2-1 win over DPR Korea in the AFC Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 qualifiers on Monday and assure the Matildas of progression to just their second Olympic Games and the first since Athens in 2004.
And Australia coach Stajcic, who suffered heartbreak after defeat in the final of the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, believes the whole nation should be proud of what his side has achieved.
“This is a night of celebration, it’s one of the great nights of Australian football and I want the whole of Australia to realise just how big an achievement this is,” he said.
“It’s not just the players here but also those back home – we had several girls pick up injuries who couldn’t be with us – and all the staff as well that deserve to take credit for this performance.”
And the 42-year-old sent out a warning to the other 11 nations who have qualified for Rio that Australia is out to make a major impression this August.
“I’ve said all along that our goal is not just to reach Rio but to win a medal and this is the first step in reaching that target. On Wednesday we face China in the final match here and that’s now the next step on the path to an Olympic gold medal,” he added.
“I clearly remember watching that Olympics on TV in the wee hours of the morning when I was coaching a school team in Adelaide and wishing there was more moments like that and now here we are.
“I just don’t have the words to say how big this is. The sheer courage, determination, heart and spirit of this team is something so special.
“We were a little tense and nervous coming off the two-day break and that perhaps showed but this is just such a special team of players.
“This is the toughest confederation in the world and I feel that Asia deserves more than two spots, but we’re just so happy to be going and we’ll aim to make all of Asia proud of us and our efforts.”
Photo: Lagardère Sports