WATCH: CommBank Matildas record 3-0 win over Uzbekistan in #Paris2024 play-off first leg

The CommBank Matildas have defeated Uzbekistan 3-0 in the first leg of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers (Third Round). Goals to Michelle Heyman, Mary Fowler and Caitlin Foord helped Australia break down a determined and well-organised Uzbekistan defence in the second half.

The match was a special occasion for 23-year-old Queenslander Kaitlyn Torpey, who became CommBank Matildas Cap #227. She started the game at left wing, in Caitlin Foord’s familiar spot, after impressing in training camp over the past five days. Foord was left out of the starting side after a heavy playing and training load with Arsenal.


Other than that, the team was largely familiar to Australians, one that was seen regularly during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™. The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Emily van Egmond and Mary Fowler both playing as 10s or false 9s, as Torpey and Hayley Raso used their speed on the wing to create opportunities.

The Australian camp had spoken throughout the week about the difficulty of breaking down an organised and talented Uzbekistan defence. That proved to be the case, with the team unable to find a breakthrough in the first half, despite having 75% possession.

Raso was heavily involved in play in the first half, creating several opportunities for herself and her teammates. Her best chance came after an interplay between Torpey and Ellie Carpenter, but she dragged her shot just wide.

The front line was very fluid – while on paper Raso occupied the right, she often found herself in spaces in the left and central channels. This unpredictability aimed to add new ways for the CommBank Matildas to penetrate the home side’s defence.

Moments after Raso’s chance, a golden opportunity fell to Emily van Egmond on the half-volley after a rebound. Her shot flew just over the crossbar.

She had another opportunity to open the scoring in first half stoppage time. Steph Catley skipped past several defenders, delivering a pinpoint cross to find van Egmond from the byline. The 30-year-old’s header was agonisingly wide, and the half ended scoreless.

Australia players pose for a team photograph prior to the AFC Women's Paris 2024 Olympic Qualifier Round 3 match between Uzbekistan and Australia Matildas at Milliy Stadium on February 24, 2024 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. (Photo by Tolib Kosimov/Getty Images)
Australia players pose for a team photograph prior to the AFC Women's Paris 2024 Olympic Qualifier Round 3 match between Uzbekistan and Australia Matildas at Milliy Stadium on February 24, 2024, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. (Photo by Tolib Kosimov/Getty Images)

Half-time saw the introduction of Caitlin Foord to the action, in place of debutant Torpey, with Foord slotting into the left-wing spot she is accustomed to for the national team.

Van Egmond again came close in the early stages of the half, after a pinpoint delivery from Mary Fowler. However, Australia was still unable to find the back of the net.

The 65th minute saw a big moment for Michelle Heyman, as the 35-year-old made her first national team appearance since 2018.

She made an instant impact. Within five minutes of her arrival, she showed her skill with her back-to-goal by playing in Hayley Raso, but Raso’s shot did not have the power to trouble the Uzbek goalkeeper.

Heyman's 21st goal for the national team would soon follow. The CommBank Matildas packed the box in anticipation of Steph Catley’s corner. The ball found Clare Hunt’s shoulder initially, before rebounding into the path of Heyman, who nodded in from close range to give the side a 1-0 lead. It was her first national team goal since 9 August 2016.

The game opened up from there as Uzbekistan tired, and the CommBank Matildas made their attacking qualities felt. Fowler – who was involved in everything in attack – got on the scoresheet with a stunner, shimmying past several defenders before rocketing a low and hard shot into the bottom corner of the net to double Australia’s lead.

The third came moments later, a perfect ball from Steph Catley finding the head of substitute Caitlin Foord, who made no mistake.

The CommBank Matildas will now take a three-goal lead into the second leg of the tie in Melbourne. 

Australia v Uzbekistan
Date: Wednesday, 28 February 2024
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Broadcast: Live from 7.30pm AEDT on 10, 10 Bold in Perth, 10 Play and Paramount+.