Kellond-Knight and Kennedy: "Unity and understanding" key to Olympic success

Experienced internationals, Elise Kellond-Knight and Alanna Kennedy spoke to Tokyo 2020 media about preparations for Tokyo, not only of the squad as a playing group but also as individuals.

Matildas v Japan


Heading into the first group match against local rivals New Zealand, both understand that the best way to stamp their intent on the competition is through a strong opening performance against the Kiwis.

"It's really important for us to set the tone for our Olympic campaign," 

"In previous tournaments we had to fight our way back and it's important that we get off to a good start and that's where our focus is," Kennedy told the media.

Kellond-Knight further stressed the importance of beating New Zealand, with points being at a premium in a highly competitive group where all three sides are familiar with major tournaments.

"It's vital. It's probably the key game," Kellond-Knight said of their opener against New Zealand.

"It could be a determining result when we're looking at the third position in our group as well.

"Ideally, we're going to win all of our games but you've also got to plan for the worst-case scenario, so the first game is going to be the most important game."

Alanna Kennedy is well aware of the strengths New Zealand pose, with many of their national team members being, in the case of Ria Percival, her teammates, club rivals, or both in England and Australia.

Tottenham teammate Percival is a no-nonsense, hardworking centre-back, both for her club and her country, with the Australians aware it may well be a tough task to break down the Kiwi's structure.

They've got a team that works really hard for each other and they have a similar grit to ourselves. They never give up on it."

"We know them well, we have a bit of a rivalry and we enjoy playing them. It's always a good battle."

Alanna Kennedy


For Kellond-Knight, representing her nation at the Tokyo Olympic Games is a remarkable achievement in itself. One year after rupturing her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), the midfielder has found her way back into coach Tony Gustavsson's international squad.

Motivation to be a two-time Olympian became the key reason as to why the 30-year-old returned to European football, recovering from her knee injuries after an extensive rehabilitation process.

"[Olympic selection] It's amazing. I've had 12 really hard months with the pandemic while stuck overseas doing rehab. It's been tough, so to have this as the end reward is really nice."

"[The Tokyo 2020 Olympics] is the only reason I stayed in Europe. If I went home I wouldn't have gotten the operation in time to be ready for Tokyo, so I really set that goal when I had surgery."



When asked about the progression under Gustavsson's tenure, Kennedy was first to acknowledge the huge strides made within the squad since the April friendlies.

However, the 26-year-old does admit the road back to international football has been difficult, after suffering from injury mid-season.

I've seen improvements everywhere. Communicating well with each other, a slightly different style and being able to adapt to that.

"There's been a lot of individual growth as well as us growing as a team.

"From a personal perspective, coming back from minor surgery, I had to work back to full fitness."

Elise Kellond-Knight says she is not worried about past performances. When asked what she believes is the key to tightening the side's defence, the experienced midfielder was clear on what Australia possesses now, compared to four months ago.

"Time. In those first games, we hadn't played together as a team for a very, very long time,"

"On top of that we had a new coach coming in, there was a very new-look squad that played those early games, so there were a lot of changes that happened."

A tough group awaits, with Australia facing world champions, The United States, European powerhouses Sweden and a New Zealand side whose stature has grown in recent years.

Both Alanna Kennedy and Elise Kellond-Knight will have a big influence on how the side competes against such world-class talent, with every individual effort and the effort of their side, leading up to this match tonight.