Complete guide: Matildas at the Algarve Cup
THE Matildas have already flown to Portugal to begin their preparations for the Algarve Cup, but what is the tournament? Who are they playing? What does it all mean?
We've taken the time to break it all down and bring it all together.
Here's everything you need to know about the Algarve Cup 2018 and Australia's place in it.
The Algarve Cup is a global invitational tournament for national teams in women's association football hosted by the Portuguese Football Federation.
It is held every year and this year runs from February 28 through to March 7.
Twelve teams, which are split into three groups, are invited to compete in it each year with points awarded three for a win, one for draw and none for a loss.
If two or more teams in a group are tied on an equal points, the finishing positions are determined by the points first; then goal difference in all the group matches; number of goals scored in the group matches; fair-play ranking in the group matches; and finally FIFA ranking.
Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, South Korea, China PR, Iceland, Russia, Portugal.
Australia is ranked fourth in the world and is the highest ranked nation competing at the 2018 Algarve Cup. This will be Australia's third appearance at the Algarve Cup. They finished fourth last year and fifth in 1999.
They will play Norway, Portugal and China PR in the group stage this year.
Current world ranking: =14. Highest: 2 (Jul 2003). Lowest: 14 (Sep 2017)
Norway has had a somewhat tumultuous time in women's football in recent years and are currently at their lowest ever world ranking. They have failed to qualify for the past two Olympic Games and made the round of 16 at the 2015 World Cup, but only the group stage the previous one in Germany in 2011.
Things could be on the up, however, after an historic pay deal was struck last year with the Norwegian FA that has the men's and women's team now paid equally.
As the association looked to create parity in marketing budgets for the team, they took it a step further and offered to pay the players equally, marking a 93 per cent increase on what the women's team was paid previously.
Norway has won the Algarve Cup four times - all of those in the 1990s. They last made the final in 2004 and have played in 23 of 24 tournaments.
Current world ranking: 16. Highest: 4 (Jul 2003). Lowest: 19 (Aug 2012).
China have been a reasonable player in women's football, having made the quarterfinals of the World Cup four times, including at the last World Cup in 2015. They finished fourth in 1995 and runners-up in 1999.
China dominated the Asian Cup for a long period, winning it seven times in a row from 1986 to 1999 and again in 2006. They finished third in 2014 and fourth in 2010. At the Rio Olympics China made the quarterfinals.
Current world ranking: 38. Highest: 32 (Oct 2003). Lowest: 47 (Mar 2007).
Being hosts of the Algarve Cup hasn't helped Portugal's results in it much. The tournament has been held since 1994, but the highest Portugal has ever finished is fifth, in the first year.
Portugal has never played in a World Cup and only made the Women's Euro for the first time last year, when they won one match to go out in the group stage.
v Norway (Albufeira Municipal Stadium)
Kick-off: 5.30am (AEDT), Thursday, 1 March
Broadcast: Live on FOX SPORTS 503
v Portugal (Estadio Algarve)
Kick-off: 2am (AEDT), Saturday, 3 March
Broadcast: Live on FOX SPORTS 506
v China PR (Albufeira Municipal Stadium)
Kick-off: 6am (AEDT), Tuesday, 6 March
Broadcast: Live on FOX SPORTS 501
1 Lydia WILLIAMS (Gk), 2 Caitlin COOPER, 3 Hannah BREWER, 4 Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5 Laura ALLEWAY, 6 Chloe LOGARZO, 7 Steph CATLEY, 8 Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9 Emily CONDON, 10 Emily VAN EGMOND, 11 Lisa DE VANNA, 13 Tameka BUTT, 14 Alanna KENNEDY, 16 Hayley RASO, 17 Alex CHIDIAC, 18 Mackenzie ARNOLD (Gk), 19 Katrina GORRY, 20 Samantha KERR, 21 Ellie CARPENTER, 22 Larissa CRUMMER, 23 Michelle HEYMAN, (TBC) Rachel LOWE.
FACTS & FIGURES
- USA have won the most Algarve Cups, with 10 titles since 2000, their final one in 2015, and their lowest finish a seventh in 2014.
- While Norway have the next most titles (four), all came in the '90s, while Germany's three came in 2006, 2012 and 2014.
- Sweden is also a force at the Algarve Cup with the most top-four finishes with 18. They have three titles (1995, 2001, 2009), one runner-up finish, three third places and eight fourths.
- Last year's final was between Spain and Canada, Spain winning 1-0.
- Australia lost the third-place playoff in 2017 on penalties 4-1, after a 1-1 draw.
Australia has some big years ahead. On return from Portugal they play a friendly against Thailand in Perth on March 26 before heading to the Asian Cup in Jordan from April 6-20.
The Asian Cup will double as qualifying for the 2019 World Cup to be played in France.
The Asian Confederation has five slots for the World Cup, meaning the top five finishers earn their place at the 2019 tournament.
Australia was runners-up in 2014 and won the Asian Cup in 2010.
It is likely the Matildas will play more friendlies throughout the rest of 2018 after the Asian Cup to have the best preparation for the World Cup.