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Football Women ready for early Brazilian test

23 July 2016

FOOTBALL: The lofty goals that the Australian women's football team have for next month’s Olympic Games will face a stern Samba inquisition at the Estádio Presidente Vargas in Fortaleza on Saturday in Brazil. 

Coach Alen Stajcic’s 18-player selection was among the first of Australia’s delegation to arrive in the host country, where they have been based for preparations at Brazil’s north coast for the past fortnight. 

The Fortaleza camp will culminate in a friendly match against Brazil, with the podium-motivated Aussies determined to show they’re serious about Games glory come finals time in Rio de Janeiro. 

“I think I can really take a lot of confidence in how far the team has progressed in the last year or so,” key striker Kyah Simon said. 

“I think we really proved ourselves at the World Cup last year and then also recently in Japan for the Olympic qualifiers. 

“I think there’s a newfound belief within the group and confidence through the way that we play and we’re very much a family orientated team, which I think definitely carries on to the field and it’s a really nice atmosphere and environment to be a part of. 

“I’m really hoping we can translate how close we are off the field to on the field and obviously take confidence in the ability that we have in the squad, the depth that we have and can really shake up this Olympic Games and, obviously, award ourselves with a medal.” 

Australia’s world-class lineup will be on show, headlined by the likes of Simon and co-striker Lisa De Vanna, who has turned heads amongst the local media due to her absolute grasp of Portuguese – De Vanna has acquired the language of Brazil through her family heritage. 

Overseas-based stars Lydia Williams, Alanna Kennedy, Emily van Egmond and Elise Kellond-Knight are all fit and available for selection, having achieved peak fitness on the back of several weeks of hard training in the hottest part of Brazil, where temperatures seldom drop below 30’C. 

“Tomorrow’s game is going to be one of the biggest matches we’ve played for a long time,” said Kellond-Knight. 

“It’s a rematch from the World Cup (Australia defeated Brazil 1-0 on that occasion) which is obviously a fantastic opportunity for us. 

“We’re so close now, I think, eleven days out from competition, so we’re really starting to gel our teams and find some form leading into the Olympics.” 

Saturday's match kicks off at 4pm local time (6am AEST Sunday). Brazil will headline Group E at the Games, while Australia make up part of Group F and will begin their Olympic campaign against Canada on 3 August. They have also drawn Germany and Zimbabwe in the pool stages for Rio 2016.

Ben Coonan

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