Raso primed to make Olympics impact after running ribbons through defences in qualifying
Ante Milicic can only take 18 players to Tokyo and there is not much else Hayley Raso could have done throughout qualification to make an impression on the Westfield Matildas boss.
Raso slotted in her sixth international goal for Australia in Wednesday night’s 2-1 win in Cẩm Phả, Quảng Ninh Province in another performance that underlined why the Brisbane-born flyer is one of the most dangerous attacking weapons at Milicic’s fingertips.
The 25-year-old now has three goals in her last five appearances for the Green and Gold, as many as the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory star had tallied across her eight-year Westfield Matildas career.
An exceptional finish against Thailand and superbly composed take on the breakaway against Chinese Taipei in Group B of qualifying highlights that Raso is emerging as a potentially lethal option for Milicic in the final third.
Moreover, the Westfield Matildas boss and fans alike will be thrilled to see an understanding between Raso and captain Sam Kerr flourish throughout the qualifying tournament when the pair have been on the pitch at the same time.
It was Kerr who teed up her international colleague for that smooth left-footed take against Chinese Taipei, and again on Wednesday night after the Chelsea star laid on an easy tap in for the new Evertonian.
With the Australian captain likely to attract heavy marking from opposition defences in Tokyo, as she has indeed been subject to during qualifying, it is the lightning quick Raso who resembles an ideal candidate to profit from such attention.
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The pair could come face to face this weekend should Raso make her long-awaited debut for Everton in their FA Cup quarter final showdown against Kerr’s Chelsea on Monday morning (AEDT).
But the prospect of that combination is an enticing one for the Olympics and beyond, particularly given Raso’s recent excellence in front of goal.
It should not come as a huge surprise that Raso is beginning to make her mark with goals given what was a sensational Westfield W-League 2019/20 campaign for Brisbane Roar.
Raso scored four goals and produced two assists for Jake Goodship’s side in eight matches, equalling her best ever record in the competition. She was effectively the Queenslanders’ most reliable source of goals, and it is probably a big reason why Everton came calling for the attacker in January.
Raso has not reached the same talismanic status on the national team front just yet. She did not get on the pitch for Australia at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
At the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, Raso made impacts from the bench against Jamaica and Brazil and was substitute against Italy and Norway.
Similarly, during qualifying, she made three starts and two substitute appearances.
But on the basis of the form she is currently showing for Australia, and if Raso continues to make a similar impact in the FA Women’s Super League, it would not be a shock to see her name nailed down in the Westfield Matildas front line come the Olympics in July.
2020 GUIDE: Key dates to add to your calendar
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United States of America v Australia
Date: Friday, 10 April 2020 (local time)
Kick-off: To be confirmed
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah, USA
Canada v Australia
Date: Tuesday, 14 April 2020 (local time)
Kick-off: 7.30pm – 12.30pm Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
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