Olympic Day: Westfield Matildas living the Olympic dream
In celebration of Olympic Day, we look back on the Westfield Matildas’ previous involvement at the Olympic Games.
2000 – SYDNEY OLYMPICS
As host nation for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the Westfield Matildas’ instantly qualified for their first appearance in the women’s football tournament.
In their first ever Olympic match, the Westfield Matildas’ went down 3-0 to Germany who then went on to secure the bronze medal.
The second match against Sweden saw a more successful outing for the Australia, with defender Cheryl Salisbury securing the lead in the 57th minute. Sweden responded only a short time later through penalty to level the score, with neither side finding the winner goal.
In the Westfield Matildas’ final group match, the hosts took the lead through a stunning Sunni Hughes goal. In response, Brazil scored two goals in the second half running away with the victory, 2-1 but it a more than respectable first outing at the Olympics for Australia.
2004 – ATHENS OLYMPICS
Four years later, the Westfield Matildas made further strides in performances and results at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Australia reached the quarter-final stage after taking down host nation Greece 1-0 following a goal from rising star at the time, Heather Garriock and drawing 1-1 with fierce competitors USA.
Reaching the quarter-final stage was the first of its kind for the Westfield Matildas’ in any major women’s international tournament.
Facing Sweden in the quarter-final, the Swedes cut short the Aussie dream of advancing further, taking victory 2-1. Australia’s goal was scored by a young Lisa De Vanna - who would later become one of the Westfield Matildas’ star players.
2016 – RIO OLYMPICS
After advancing through the qualifying campaign in Japan undefeated, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games marked the first time in 12 years that the Westfield Matildas would play on the Olympic stage.
After going down to Canada 2-0 in their first group game, the Westfield Matildas bounced back with an electric performance against eventual gold medallists Germany. Goals from Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord saw them led 2-0 through the first half. Just before the break, Germany pulled one back before equalising late in the match.
With a loss and draw to their name thus far, the Westfield Matildas’ went into their final group game against Zimbabwe knowing they needed the win - and win they did in absolute style.
Australia defeated Zimbabwe 6-1, with five individual goals scorers in substitute Michelle Heyman, as well as Lisa De Vanna, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne, Kyah Simon all contributing on the score board.
The victory win took the Westfield Matildas’ to the quarter finals for the second time where they faced host nation Brazil in front of 52,000 football fans at Estadio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.
In 120 minutes of goalless football, the match went to the penalty shootout to determine a winner. The host nation proving to be the stronger side just, winning 7-6 on penalties. Brazilian goalkeeper Barbara saved against Alanna Kennedy to secure their spot in the semi-finals.
While Westfield Matildas didn’t secure the result they wanted, their play earned them the respect and affection of the Australian public that they continue to hold today.
In early 2020, the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers were unexpectedly moved onto home soil with the Westfield Matildas taking on Chinese Taipei, Thailand and China.
After two wins and a draw, the Westfield Matildas advanced to take on Vietnam in a home and away series. A big crowd at Newcastle saw Australia take a 5-0 first leg lead, before they sealed their berth with a 2-1 away win.
The Tokyo Olympics will be Australia’s fourth appearance at the Women’s Football Tournament, and with each successive Olympics producing greater results, there will be much anticipation come 2021.
For now, we can celebrate one of Australia’s most loved teams on Olympic Day.