Women’s football was introduced to the Olympic Games for the 1996 tournament, where only the top eight teams of the 1995 World Cup qualified (Australia had finished 12th in the 1995 World Cup).
The Australian women’s team qualified for the Olympic Games finals tournaments in 2000 (as host nation), and again in 2004 as winner of the Oceania qualifying tournament.
Following Australia’s entry into the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006, qualification for the Olympic Games was made much more challenging, especially for the Beijing 2008 Games where hosts and AFC member China were granted an automatic spot.
This meant only two more Olympic Games spots were available for the entire continent, Australia eventually finishing second behind winners DPR (North) Korea who gained the qualification spot from Group B.
Similar to the improvement shown over its first few World Cups, the Australian women’s team commenced its Olympic Games experience modestly, losing two and drawing one at Sydney 2000, before improving markedly in the 2004 tournament, where a 1-0 win over host nation Greece and a 1-1 draw with powerhouses USA enabled the Aussies to reach the quarter-final stage for the first time in a major women's international tournament.
After a 12-year absence, Australia returned to the Olympic Games football tournament at Rio 2016, qualifying by topping their group.
After a 2-0 loss to Canada and a 2-2 draw with Germany, the Matildas triumphed 6-1 over Zimbabwe in their final Group F match to qualify for the knockout stages.
The Aussies would again come face-to-face with Brazil in a high-octane quarter-final. Unfortunately for the Green and Gold it would not end the same way as a year previously in the World Cup, with the hosts triumphing 7-6 on penalties after a scoreless match.
In 2020 Westfield Matildas commenced their quest for a fourth Olympics appearance at home when the AFC Women's Olympic Qualifiers came to Sydney. Drawn in Group B, Australia opened their group stage with a 7-0 win over Chinese Taipei with Caitlin Foord netting a hattrick.
Another hattrick, this time from Emily van Egmond, saw Australia move past Thailand 6-0 in the second match setting up a group decider with China. The two continential powers went head to head in an absorbing encounter at Bankwest Stadium. After the Steel Roses went ahead 1-0 late in the piece, Van Egmond proved the hero with a 92nd equaliser to keep the Westfield Matildas top of Group B.
Winning the group set up a home and away clash with Vietnam for a place at Tokyo. Held in Newcastle, the home leg saw captain Kerr's brace lead Australia to a comfortable 5-0 win. On the road the Westfield Matildas came away with a 2-1 victory and a well earned qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
The victory streak continued in Tokyo 2021 after the Matildas went down fighting against the United States in the Bronze Medal Match, earning themselves a historic 4th place finish- the furthest the Matildas have ever gone at the Olympic Games.
- Football Australia
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