‘Half the job is done’: Polkinghorne and Kellond-Knight focus on task ahead
Westfield Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne says there will be no complacency as her team look to seal their progression to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Vietnam on March 11.
The Brisbane Roar captain was amongst the goals in her side’s 5-0 result over their number 32 ranked opponents in front more than 14,000 fans in Newcastle on Friday evening.
Sam Kerr delivered two goals which book-ended the scoring spree, while Chloe Logarzo and Emily van Egmond also found the back of the net in the win.
The result puts Ante Milicic’s side in the box set of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but Polkinghorne – a veteran of four previous Olympic Qualifying campaigns – says she is certainly is not looking beyond the second play-off leg just yet.
“We’ll get there first, then we’ll take the next few months as they come,” Polkinghorne told reporters prior to departing for Vietnam.
She added: “It’s always nice to get a victory and a clean sheet. I think half the job is done, we’ve got to ensure we recover and prepare well for the next game.
“The way that Vietnam play sometimes it can be hard to break down, but I thought we were really patient and found some good solutions, and had a little bit of variety in there as well.
“That’s something we’ve been working on and hopefully we can continue to improve on that.”
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Polkinghorne’s 67th-minute goal at McDonald Jones Stadium was her first since 2018 and was followed by a raucous celebration from the Brisbane-born defender and her teammates.
“Every goal for your country is really special, it doesn’t happen too often for me so I’ve got to enjoy it while I can,” she said.
But she was quick to add that her priority remains in the backline and working alongside her teammates to close down opposing teams.
“We’ve had a real focus on our defence when we’ve actually got the ball and making sure that we’re all organised and if we do lose the ball we’re not under threat for a counter attack or transition,” she said.
“We’ve been working hard on that, it has been improving each game we play and there’s still a lot to improve on but we’re getting there.”
The Westfield Matildas last played in Vietnam at the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup, where the team defeated Vietnam 2-0 on their way to the tournament final.
Midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight explained the team will draw on their prior experiences of playing in south-east Asia and are confident they will get the job done.
“It’s always a challenge playing in Asia, we haven’t been over there for a number of years now,” she explained.
“The conditions are extremely different, the grass, the surface is always a lot different, it’s like buffalo thick grass.
“It will be interesting to get over there and get situated, we’ve only got a couple of days to prepare.”
Due to the ongoing caution around the coronavirus, the upcoming match at Cẩm Phả Stadium will be played behind closed doors, but Kellond-Knight says that will not affect the team’s focus.
"All respect to Vietnam [but] I don’t know what kind of crowd they would have pulled anyway over there. For us, it doesn’t mean anything, it will just be business as usual,” she concluded.
Vietnam v Australia (Away Leg)
Date: Wednesday, 11 March 2020
Kick-off: 6.00pm local; 10pm AEDT
Venue: Cẩm Phả Stadium, Cẩm Phả, Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam
United States of America v Australia
Date: Friday, 10 April 2020 (local time)
Kick-off: To be confirmed
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah, USA
Canada v Australia
Date: Tuesday, 14 April 2020 (local time)
Kick-off: 7.30pm – 12.30pm Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver, Canada