The Matildas performed admirably at the 2016 Olympics, they scored eight goals in the group stage but were knocked out in an epic penalty shootout with hosts Brazil.
Since then, Australia has been a very stable and familiar-looking squad but the team for Toyko features eight players making their first Olympic appearances.
Debutants are usually thought of as inexperienced or new to the national team. In 2021 three players with over 100 caps between them will become Olympians. Each of them is a proven performer who can make a big difference in multiple parts of the pitch.
Avi Luik: 25 International Caps
Luik started in the first three of Tony Gusavsson’s games since the Swedish tactician took the reigns.
The absence of Elisse Kellond-Knight in midfield has previously created a domino effect on the side. Historically, Emily Van Egmond would move into defensive midfield and be pushed further away from where she can make the most impact.
With Luik in the squad, Australia has a player who can play as a number six, extinguish threats, and can shift back into defence when needed.
At the age of 36 most players are slowing down but Luik’s energetic and disciplined performances in recent games are that of a player still at her peak.
She has been made to wait to play on the big stage and her World Cup debut finally arrived in 2019.
She has extensive European experience at club level and has played in dominant sides with Melbourne City and as an underdog with Sevilla in Spain.
She has been Australia’s most consistent performer in recent friendlies despite the midfield personnel changing around her constantly.
Aivi Luik looks right at home in the national team.
She might be an Olympic debutant, but it is hard to picture a squad without her.
Emily Gielnik: 38 International Caps
The W-League Golden Boot winner is a scorer of great goals and a great goal scorer.
In 2018 the tall centre-forward began to transform into a powerful winger at Melbourne Victory. Her form that season attracted the attention of Bayern Munich and earned her a national team recall.
Her time in Bavaria did not quite work out, but a move to Sweden with Vittsjo GIK and then to Brisbane Roar saw her recapture her best form.
Gielnik offers directness, speed, strength, and physical presence. As she bullocked and harassed her way through the German penalty area to score twice in the 5-2 loss it was apparent that all the tactics and formation had no answer to what she can do.
She is equally dangerous on the left or right wing, can finish off either foot and has the height to trouble defenders at set-pieces.
In the Denmark game, Gielnik provided the assists for both of Australia’s goals. She whipped in a low cross for Mary Fowler to strike and provided the corner for Clare Polkinghorne to score.
When in form and confident, Gielnik is capable of miraculous goals. An incredible highlight for Brisbane Roar saw her take possession in midfield, explode away from the defender and launch a shot over the keeper from 40 yards at full pace.
Her best Matildas moment would likely be a goal against South Korea. Gielnik collected the ball on the left-wing. She took it up to her marker, cut onto her right, and from a position where an accurate cross would be difficult, she managed to swing it into the net at the near post.
Emily Gielnik is making her Olympic debut at the age of 29 after 38 caps, 10 international goals, and following a dominant season.
She did not make the trip to Rio, but she will be eager to make up for that in Tokyo.
Hayley Raso: 46 International Caps
Raso has been an ever-present for Australia in recent years so the fact she is making her Olympic debut might be surprising for some.
In 2016, Sam Kerr was about a year away from becoming an all-conquering centre-forward and was a wide attacker. In a side that also featured Michelle Heyman, Kyah Simon, and Lisa De Vanna it is understandable why she might have been overlooked at the time.
In 2021, leaving Raso out of the squad would be nearly unimaginable. Tony Gustavsson values versatility and game-changing potential in players and these attributes describe Raso perfectly.
Across the four recent friendlies, she has played up front, in midfield, and in defence. The results of her positional changes have been mixed (she struggled as part of a back four, but then so did the whole team) however, the commitment to the task has been consistently admirable.
Raso adds defensive pressure to an attack and attacking potential to a defence. She is lightning quick, a good finisher, and seems to relish the physical side of the game.
In the Sweden game alone she played in three different roles at various stages of the match The Everton winger gives Australia tactical flexibility and something for the opposition to worry about.
In a back five, she can play as a wing-back. In a four player midfield she can operate along the touchline and in a front three she can play on the shoulder of the defender or run at them from deep.
Hayley Raso is one of Australia’s most stylish and aggressive players and she plays every game like it is her last. The fan favourite might be overdue for an Olympic call-up but based on what we have seen from Gustavsson’s tactics so far, she will be vital to his plans.