The time has come for the Matildas.
While it’s not the gold medal match, tonight’s clash against Team USA will decide whether they leave Japan with Australia’s first ever Olympic football medal.
The winner of the bronze medal match gets on the bottom step of the podium, the loser misses out.
It may only be for third place, but the players from both teams will be treating this clash as their final.
Can Australia push through fatigue?
Led by fantastic captain Sam Kerr, Australia was agonisingly close to reaching the decider, going down 1-0 to Sweden in the semi-finals.
Arguably the better team over the 90 minutes, the Matildas couldn’t find the back of the net, with a Kerr goal disallowed for a foul off the ball in the first half.
They’ll take confidence into their clash against the USA, after the two sides played out a defensive 0-0 draw in the group stage.
But the Australians did look tired at times against Sweden.
“I’m just tired. We all are. It’s not just this tournament. We’ve been going since last July when we started pre-season,” Kerr said after the loss to Sweden.
Going into their sixth game of the tournament, the Aussies will have to regroup and push through fatigue to get a result.
Chance for redemption for Team USA
Bronze is not the medal the USA wanted.
Tokyo was supposed to be their chance at redemption, after being knocked out by Sweden in the quarter-finals in Rio in 2016.
But it wasn’t to be, with the USA going down 1-0 to Canada in the semi-finals ths time around.
One of the heavyweights of women’s football, the USA went back-to-back at the 2019 World Cup, winning a second consecutive title.
Expectations were high for the Tokyo Olympics with one of the most experienced teams in the tournament, and while gold is out of reach, Australia should expect a switched-on America.
Red card rules out Carpenter
Complicating matters for the Matildas, speedy defender Ellie Carpenter is out after being red-carded for a last-ditch professional foul late in the game against Sweden.
Among the Matildas’ best players at the tournament, Carpenter will leave a big hole on the pitch for the Aussies.
She has the ability to play out wide and push forward, but also to get back to solidify the defence.
It’ll be a big job for whoever comes in to replace her.
Who to watch out for: Australia
Teagan Micah has been a monster in goal for Australia.
The 23-year-old kept Australia in the game early against Great Britain in the quarter-finals.
She also saved a penalty in extra time which changed the momentum of the game.
Steph Catley has been one of the most consistent players in Tokyo.
One of the world’s most dangerous left-backs, her quick feet and speed combined with her lethal left foot can do damage for the Matildas.
Of course, we can’t forget Australia’s captain and star forward Sam Kerr.
With five goals in the tournament, Kerr is one of the most prolific strikers in the world and will be hoping to lead the Matildas to a medal.
One of the dark horse options for Australia is youngster Mary Fowler.
The 18-year-old has shown she has a big future with the Matildas, and is extremely dangerous up forward, scoring a screamer from outside the box against Great Britain.
She has the ability to make the difference with her speed and creativity up front.
Who to watch out for: USA
With attacking options everywhere, you can’t go past Alex Morgan up front.
The veteran striker won the silver boot at the 2019 World Cup in France, and while she hasn’t scored many this tournament, if given the chance she can be clinical.
Christen Press is another attacking option for the Americans.
She scored against New Zealand early in the tournament and is dangerous when linking play between the midfield and forward line, teaming up with Morgan.
The other player to watch out for is Megan Rapinoe.
Another veteran for Team USA, Rapinoe makes things happen.
Supremely skilled at keeping the ball and finding space, whenever Rapinoe receives the ball out wide, she’ll push forward at every opportunity.
Her delivery into the box is elite and often ends up creating a goalscoring opportunity.
The Matildas take on Team USA in the bronze medal match from 6:00pm AEST.