When the Westfield Matilda’s edged closer and closer to qualifying for Rio back in March, 7mate saw a parallel rise in television ratings.

Australians everywhere were eager to see the National Women’s Team in the iconic green and gold, boosting ratings by 34% for their opening match against Japan and topping that to see a massive 1.2 million people tune in for the Matildas’ final four games. This hunger for women’s sport is only just beginning as the Matildas embark on a promising campaign in Rio for the first time since 2004. We’ve done our waiting; twelve years of it. The Football Sack is here with an all inclusive, horcrux-free guide to catch you up.

The Squad

Forwards: Together, forwards Lisa de Vanna, Michelle Hayman, Kyah Simon, Larissa Crummer, and Samantha Kerr have more than 250 international caps and and 73 combined goals on the world stage. Co captain and veteran de Vanna leads the pack with more than 110 international appearances for Australia (and a solid 38 international goals), making Rio her second Olympics. 20 year old Crummer will make her Olympics debut after being honoured with the NAP W-League Young Player of the Year Award for 2015-16.

Defenders: Claire Polkinghome, Stephanie Catley, Ellie Carpenter, Laura Alleway and Alanna Kennedy are all featuring in their first Olympic Games but will take inspiration from Matildas ‘old girls’ defenders Thea Slayter and Sacha Wainwright who reckon the strong spine of Aussie defence will place the Matildas in medal contention. The Aussies start them young, with Foord once holding the record for the youngest ever World Cup player at 16 and 230 days, before 15 year old Ellie Carpenter came along.

Midfielders: Caitlin Foord, Chloe Logarzo, Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily van Egmond, Tameka Butt and Katrina Gorry prove an impressive force that will test Australia’s competitors and contribute to the dominant attacking style Alen Stajcic’s side has leant towards all year. 21 year old Logarzo is a surprise inclusion to the squad after impressing in the early stages of her national team career.

Goalkeepers: Lydia Williams and Mackenzie Arnold will have their work cut out for them with the Group F draw doing Australia no favours. Williams’ position on the team comes at no surprise after long establishing herself as Australia’s top female goalie upon Melissa Barbieri’s exit after a successful tenure with the gloves.

The Coach

Since taking the reigns at the Westfield Matiltas in 2014, Head Coach Alen Stajcic has charted them to the 2014 Women’s Asian Cup Final, last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter finals and a historic Olympic qualification.

How They Qualified for Rio

A dream start to the Women’s World Cup saw the Matildas gain a 3-1 victory of Japan in Osaka. Their second match, a thrilling 9-0 win against Vietnam, saw captain Kyah Simon score a hat-trick in the first half and a host of fresh players, including Ellie Carpenter who made her international debut at the ripe age of 15. A 2-0 win against the Korea Republic made the Aussies three from three, and a highlight goal by Simon in the first minute. Finally, playing their fourth match in a week, the Matilda’s were after one point to qualify for the Olympics and instead got three, winning 2-1 against the 6th-ranked DPR Korea.

Coach Alen Stajcic said “It’s probably one of the most historic moments in football for this team.” He’d be close to the mark, too, with the 2016 Rio campaign being just the third time the Matildas have qualified for the Olympic Games since the women’s tournament was introduced in 1996.

The Draw

Australia pulled up in a draw alongside Canada, Germany and Zimbabwe, in Group F which is the only group to have three top-10 teams in the FIFA rankings. Their first match against the 10th-ranked (and London bronze-medalists) Canadians will be a tell-tale reality check before facing off against world number two and three-time silver medalists, Germany, in the second round. While the draw does not include the USA powerhouse, some rate it as the toughest draw out there. Stajic, however, remains optimistic.

“It’s a very exciting group and we know that if we play to our potential we can be really competitive,” said Stajcic.

Teams coming first and second from each group will qualify for the knockout stage, alongside the top two third place teams.

Chances of Taking Home Gold

Australia is currently ranked 5th in the FIFA standings. England, France and Germany stand in-between the top ranked team USA, who have won won three of four Olympic titles since the women’s competition was introduced.

A ranking system, Women’s Soccer Power Index, gave Australia a 4% chance of winning the World Cup based on an 8000 match history of women’s football dating back to 1971. However, the team produced a number a remarkable upsets during their campaign and, according to Stajcic, have stepped it up even more since then.

A week of training in Brazil’s north-east earlier this month resulted in a 3-1 loss in a friendly with Brazil. The Matildas have arrived in Sao Paulo, the home of the Rio Olympics, and intend to take in the experience, one step at a time.

“The competition between the top teams in the world is really hard … but we’re in it to win it,” said defender Laura Alleway.

“But small steps, Canada first and we’ll just deal with it as it comes.”

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A 20 year old Media and Law student trying to tame those stream-of-consciousness writing habits with an ickle bit of fun at the Central Coast Mariners.