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Spearhead ‘Trailblazers’ Australia is heading for Olympic football gold

Spearhead ‘Trailblazers’ Australia is heading for Olympic football gold

SYDNEY, June 4, 2024 (BSS/AFP) – Australia on Tuesday declared an 18-member women’s football team “full of pioneers and record breakers” in their quest for gold at the Paris Olympics next month.

Arsenal defender Steph Catley will captain in the absence of superstar striker Sam Kerr, who has already been ruled out of the Games due to a serious knee injury.

The Matildas finished fourth at the last Games in Tokyo and again at their home world championships in 2023.

Real Madrid’s Hayley Raso and Everton’s Clare Wheeler were on target as Australia defeated Asian champions China 2-0 in front of 76,798 fans on Monday in their final home match before Paris.

Arsenal striker Caitlin Foord did not play due to injury, but was included, along with Raso and Wheeler, in Tony Gustavsson’s squad for the Games in the French capital, which start on July 26.

Eight of the squad, including Catley and vice-captains Emily Van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter, will become the first Australian footballers to compete in three Olympic Games.

“This team is already full of pioneers and record breakers,” says Australian chef Anna Meares.

Gustavsson’s team is in a difficult group with Germany, Zambia and the United States, who defeated the Australians and won bronze in Tokyo.

“This was an incredibly challenging squad to select, with so many quality players competing fiercely for a limited number of places,” said the Swede.