Tony Gustavsson insists Michelle Heyman’s age shouldn’t count against her after handing the 35-year-old striker a shock recall as he seeks to fill the Sam Kerr-shaped void in his squad.
Heyman, who has been consistently overlooked by Gustavsson during his tenure, hasn’t played for the Matildas in six years and previously retired from international football.
But the goal poacher and Chloe Logarzo – who missed last year’s Women’s World Cup with injury – were the two big inclusions when Australia’s 23-player squad was announced on Wednesday.
The Matildas play Uzbekistan in a qualifier later this month, with a win across the two legs guaranteeing their passage to the Paris Olympics.
The two games give Heyman a golden opportunity to book an unlikely ticket to Paris with captain Kerr set to miss the tournament after injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
The 61-cap international has nine goals in 14 A-League Women games for Canberra United this season, and she will be 36 by the time the Olympics kicks off in July.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson insists Michelle Heyman’s age shouldn’t count against her after he handed the 35-year-old striker a shock recall ahead of the two Olympic qualifiers against Uzbekistan
Heyman hasn’t played for the Matildas in six years and previously retired from international football
‘With Sam unavailable, Kyah (Simon) coming back from injury … we were looking at who’s the best next No.9,’ Gustavsson said.
‘The way Michelle has played, she deserves to be selected – it is purely [down to] performance.
‘I’ve said a lot of times, it’s not about your age, it’s about the quality you have as a footballer – whether you are 17 or 35.
‘Heyman has played herself into this team the way she is playing, she’s in tremendous form and she’s scoring for fun.
‘Michelle is back again and she’s 35….we should be excited about players extending their career.’
As well as Heyman, Logarzo’s recall is significant after battling injury over the past 18 months and missing out on the World Cup.
The midfielder had to watch last year’s tournament from the TV studio but her strong form for Western United has led to her earning a lifeline back into the squad.
‘She’s worked a long time to get back to where she needed to be,’ Gustavsson said.
‘Her professionalism and her character has gotten her back to where she is now, so I’m really happy to bring Chloe back in.
Strong form for Western United this season has seen Chloe Logarzo earn a Matildas recall
‘She also knows the identity of the team and she knows the playing style so she’s going to integrate quickly.’
Uncapped defender Kaitlyn Torpey wins her first call-up after sealing a move to San Diego Wave earlier this week but there is no place for Melbourne Victory livewire Alex Chidiac.
‘(Chidiac) didn’t really get the minutes when she was abroad and it’s for her to find the joy and the love for the game,’ Gustavsson said.
‘The way Chids can play, we’re still going to keep an eye on her.’
Steph Catley will captain the side in Kerr’s absence.
The first leg is away in Tashkent on February 24 before the return fixture at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on February 28.
Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah, Jada Whyman
Defenders: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Charli Grant, Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Aivi Luik, Clare Polkinghorne, Kaitlyn Torpey
Midfielders: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Mary Fowler, Katrina Gorry, Chloe Logarzo, Amy Sayer, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Tameka Yallop
Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Michelle Heyman, Hayley Raso, Cortnee Vine