The Matildas will play the home leg of their Tokyo 2020 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament playoff match against Vietnam at McDonald Jones Stadium in the Hunter in March, the FFA confirmed on Thursday evening.
After Emily van Egmond led Australia to a lopsided 6–0 victory over Thailand on Monday night, the Novocastrian star struck again in a must-win battle with China on Thursday to secure the Matildas’ place in the Olympics playoff battle.
Tang Jiali opened the scoring for China in the 86th minute, and it looked like the Aussies may be taking the hard road to Tokyo—a win or draw over China was needed to book a spot in the final hurdle match against Vietnam.
Van Egmond had something left to give for the team, however, after shifting back into her natural number 10 position under the watchful eye of Matildas boss Ante Milicic, and fired Australia to the top of the group with an extra-time equaliser.
An absolute SCREAMER from @em_surf in the 9️⃣3️⃣rd minute!
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) February 13, 2020
The 1–1 draw now means Vietnam stands between Australia and the 2020 Olympics, and McDonald Jones Stadium will be the scene of half the battle.
Newcastle’s biggest sporting stadium is no stranger to Matildas games either. In 2017 and 2018 the Hunter venue drew 16,829 and 12,649 fans respectively. It also hosted a series of men’s AFC Asian Cup games in 2015.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the citizens of Newcastle were already excited about the possibility of the Matildas returning to the region, and added she had a lot of faith local star Van Egmond could repeat her heroics again.
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“We are thrilled that the Matildas have advanced to the next stage of Olympic qualification and will come back to Newcastle to take on South Korea,” she said.
“Great crowds will fill the stands to make the ground a fortress… and I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Emily [van Egmond] scored that wonderful equaliser, that we reclaim the record by exceeding the 20,000 set at the new Bankwest last year.”
The Matildas match will be played at 8pm AEDT on Friday, March 6. Family tickets are on sale now, while tickets for the general public will go on sale at 11am Monday, February 17. Book your seats for the game here.