Home qualifiers exciting Matildas stars

Elise Kellond-Knight is rapt to be playing Olympic qualifiers for Tokyo on home soil.
Elise Kellond-Knight is rapt to be playing Olympic qualifiers for Tokyo on home soil.

An unexpected detour through Sydney's western suburbs on the path to the Tokyo Olympics is exciting Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight.

While a fresh coronavirus scare has thrown the scheduling into disarray, the six fixtures in Group B of the final stage of Asian qualifiers for this year's Games are slated to kick off at Campbelltown and Bankwest Stadiums next week.

Concerns raised late on Wednesday that the virus is highly contagious before people show symptoms, means the visiting Chinese team will remain in quarantine in Brisbane until February 5 and miss their opening game against Thailand.

When and where they make the fixture up is yet to be decided, with the FFA working with health authorities to determine the ramifications and ticket sales for the games placed on hold.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty, the Matildas are scheduled to take on Taiwan and Thailand at Campbelltown next Monday and Thursday, before facing China at Bankwest next Sunday evening.

The top two teams to emerge from the group face the top two teams from Group A - featuring South Korea, North Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam - in two-legged home and away playoffs for the two spots available at the Olympics.

The Sydney matches were intially arranged after China withdrew as hosts last weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak there.

Speaking before the decision to place the Chinese team in isolation, Kellond-Knight said she was buzzing at the opportunity of playing competitive football on home soil for the first time in 109 appearances for the Matildas.

"It's extremely unexpected that it's occurred and worked out like this but I can say the whole playing group's really excited and looking forward to putting on three great performances," the 29-year-old said.

"I've played for the Matildas for a number of years - had over a hundred games - and I've never played a competitive game on my home soil. It's a fantastic opportunity and I think it feels even more special in that it's unexpected."

The arrival of captain Sam Kerr and Germany-based Emily Gielnik in Australia on Tuesday night means the full Matildas squad is now in camp ahead of the qualifiers.

Coach Ante Milicic said hosting the matches would give his team an advantage.

"We're happy that we're staying in Sydney and to play at home of course," he said.

"This outcome works well for us and the girls are obviously excited. This has now been put into place so it's up to us to put on the performances we know we can deliver."

FFA chief executive James Johnson was hopeful of a big turnout for the three matchdays, with an eye on impressing FIFA officials assessing the dual bid by Australia and New Zealand to host the 2023 Women's World Cup.

"The first thing we need to do is deliver a great tournament. I'm very confident that we will," Johnson said.

ASIAN WOMEN'S OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS - GROUP B SCHEDULE (all times AEDT)

Monday, February 3 at Campbelltown Stadium

China v Thailand 4.30pm*

Australia v Taiwan 7.30pm

Thursday, February 6 at Campbelltown Stadium

Taiwan v China 4.30pm

Thailand v Australia 7.30pm

Sunday, February 9 at Bankwest Stadium

Thailand v Taiwan 3.10pm

Australia v China 6.10pm

* Will now need to be rescheduled

Australian Associated Press