The Matildas’ upcoming Olympic qualifiers have been moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
- Hundreds of cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the city of Wuhan
- The FFA has praised the AFC’s decision to move the Olympic qualifying tournament to Nanjing
- On Tuesday, Matildas coach Ante Milicic said he had full faith organisers would put the health of the teams first
Australia is due to play China, Thailand and Chinese Taipei in the final round of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but those matches will now be played in Nanjing rather than Wuhan, which has gone into lockdown.
Residents of Wuhan have been advised not to leave the city, which has closed its transport networks. Officials have confirmed hundreds of cases of the virus, and hospitals in the city are overloaded.
Football Federation Australia said it welcomed the Asian Football Confederation’s decision to move the tournament.
“FFA will continue to work with health experts, government departments, the AFC, and other stakeholders to monitor the situation and ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of all players and staff set to travel to China PR for the competition,” it said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Matildas coach Ante Milicic said he and his team were trying to put the coronavirus threat out of their minds, and trusted organisers to make the right decision.
“I’ve got full confidence in the people that will be making these decisions,” Milicic said.
“We’re just really trying to focus on the football and trust that the appropriate steps have been put in place.”
The tournament will be played from February 3-9.
Meanwhile, the Matildas have begun preparing for the Olympics before they’ve even qualified, locking in three friendlies with Canada over the next two years, the first of which to be played in April.
The FFA has announced the Matildas will play at BC Place in Vancouver on April 14, and the other two matches will be played in Australia before the end of 2021.
Australia coach Ante Milicic says the Vancouver match will be an important test for his side if they qualify for the Olympics.
“Canada is a real powerhouse in the women’s game. After defeating Australia in our opening match of the 2016 Rio Olympics, they went on to claim their second straight bronze medal,” he said.
“The quality of the Canadian team should not be underestimated, it will be a fiercely-fought series of matches and fans can look forward to two good match-ups here in Australia next year.”