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WALTZING MATILDAS



SYDNEY, April 2 AAP - Matildas coach Tom Sermanni has announced a near full-strength squad for their opening Beijing Olympic qualifier against Hong Kong on Saturday at the BCU International Stadium.

The Matildas will be led by long-serving captain Cheryl Salisbury, who along with Dianne Alagich and Heather Garriock, will be looking to appear in their third consecutive Olympics.

The exciting news for local football fans is the confirmation that Young Matildas striker and Coffs Harbour product Jenna Tristram has received her first call-up to the senior team and is the only uncapped player in the 20-strong squad.

Absent through injury are midfielder Sally Shipard (foot) and striker Caitlin Munoz (knee).

Australia is grouped with seeded team North Korea, as well as Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.

The other qualifying group consists of seeded-team Japan, plus Korea Republic, Thailand and Vietnam.

The qualifying matches will be held between April and August with only the top team in each group to progress to the 2008 Olympic Games.

Australia has already qualified for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup also to be held in China, from September 10-30.

SQUAD: Melissa Barbieri (Melbourne), Lydia Williams (Canberra), Emma Wirkus (Adelaide), Di Alagich (Sydney), Kim Carroll (Brisbane), Rhian Davies (Sydney), Heather Garriock (Sydney), Kate McShea (Brisbane), Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane), Karla Reuter (Newcastle), Cheryl Salisbury (Newcastle), Thea Slatyer (Sydney) Midfielders Joanne Burgess (Sydney), Lauren Colthorpe (Newcastle), Collette McCallum (Perth), Joanne Peters (Newcastle), Danielle Small (Sydney), Kate Gill (Newcastle), Jenna Tristram (Coffs Harbour), Sarah Walsh (Sydney).