Teenage defender Angela Beard has been rewarded for her brave and big-hearted performance for Brisbane Roar Women on Monday with a call up to the latest Westfield Matildas training camp in preparation for next month’s Olympic qualifiers.
The 18-year-old left back has been invited to the three-day camp in Canberra this week along with four other Roar Women players – Matildas co-captain Clare Polkinghorne, midfielders Katrina Gorry and Tameka Butt and striker Emily Gielnik.
Beard gave a dynamic performance at left back in her side’s dramatic 120 minutes of scoreless play against the undefeated Premiers Melbourne City before losing the Westfield W-League Semi-Final 5-4 on penalties.
Roar Women’s Coach Belinda Wilson said she was proud of all her players and the call up of the five to the training camp added to an amazing 48 hours for her squad.
“Everyone worked so hard to turn our season around and the performance against City is one that will be remembered for a long time,” Wilson said.
“After losing so many internationals in the off-season then to finish this season with five players from out rebuilt squad training with the Matildas is a credit to them all.
“And we are all so happy for Angie (Beard). She proved in the game and with how she handled herself afterwards that she is taking the first steps in what has the potential to be a wonderfully successful footballing career for the Roar and Australia.”
It is the second Westfield Matildas training camp call up for Beard after she was invited to a camp earlier this month.
But the competition for places in the final squad is intense with Head Coach Alen Stajcic to select just 17 outfield players for the qualifying tournament in Japan, starting 29 February.
Three more training camps are scheduled in February before the squad departs for Osaka on 22 February.
The six-team qualifying tournament will see each team play five games in 10 days, with the top two countries at the end of the matches booking their places at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
The Westfield Matildas will open their qualifying campaign against world No.4-ranked and reigning AFC Women’s Asian Cup Champions Japan on 29 February at Kincho Stadium in Osaka.
Other teams in the play-offs are DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Vietnam and China P.R.
The Westfield Matildas (9th) are currently the third-highest ranked nation among the qualification group, behind Japan (4th) and DPR Korea (6th) but ahead of China P.R. (15th), Korea Republic (17th) and Vietnam (33rd).
After Japan, the Westfield Matildas then face Vietnam two days later, followed by Korea Republic and three-time AFC Women’s Asian Cup winners DPR Korea before their final match against China P.R. on 9 March.
“Execution in each game is going to be very important but squad depth is probably the most important,” Stajcic said earlier this month.
“We can only take 20 players, three of which are goalkeepers, so those 17 outfield players are going to have to be fully fit, we’re going to have to have versatility and mobility within the team and they’re obviously going to have to be ready to go and ready to back up for the hard schedule.
“It could come down to the last minute of the last game so we need to make sure we’re fit enough mentally and physically to be up for the challenge all the way through.”