Coffs Coast Advocate work experience student, Justen Beashel, gets to the tough issues with Matildas goal keeper Emma Wirkus.
Coffs Coast Advocate work experience student, Justen Beashel, gets to the tough issues with Matildas goal keeper Emma Wirkus.

Matildas touch down for Olympic qualifiers



THE countdown to kickoff has commenced after the Qantas Matildas jetted into Coffs Harbour yesterday to prepare for their Beijing Olympic qualifier against Hong Kong at BCU International Stadium on the weekend.

Coach Tom Sermanni has named a near full-strength squad for the first game in the three-match series with only midfielder Sally Shipard and striker Caitlin Munoz sidelined through injury.

"This is so exciting," goalkeeper Emma Wirkus said after stepping off the 'plane.

"We're now in stage two of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics and a good result on Saturday afternoon will help get us on the way."

Australia must overcome Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Asia's top-rated team DPR Korea (North Korea) if they are to appear in their third successive Olympic football tournament.

Their biggest advantage is playing all three contests as the 'home' side in Coffs Harbour.

The team including Boambee protege Jenna Tristram have planned a huge promotional campaign during their visit.

Players will tour nine district primary schools today before hosting an open training session at BCU International Stadium between 4pm-6pm tomorrow.

A special meet and autograph session for fans is scheduled where free posters will be available.

"The last time the Matildas played in Coffs Harbour they attracted a crowd of 5,000," Cr Ian Hogbin, Chair of Council's Corporate Business Committee, said.

"With football enjoying an even higher profile these days I'm sure there will be plenty of fans and aspiring players who will want to take this opportunity to meet the Matildas."

Saturday's international kicks off at 3pm.

Pre-sale tickets are available from Council's central ticketing system at the Jetty Memorial Theatre or online via www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au

SBS Television will show highlights of the match in 'The World Game' the following day and provide live telecasts of the match against PDR Korea on June 10 and Chinese Taipei on August 12.



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