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Matildas lose in heartbreaking shootout

31 July 2006

Australia has lost the final of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup to China, after a dramatic penalty shootout at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide.

Chinese substitute keeper Yanru Zhang came on for the shootout and saved two Australian penalties, to be the hero for China in what was an absorbing contest from the opening whistle.

Zhang saved penalties from Collete McCallum and Jo Peters, as China won the shootout 4-2 after the match finished 2-2 at the end of full time and then extra time.

It’s a match the Australian’s will look back at what might have been, after they led 2-0 at the half time break.

China then dominated the second half and scored twice in quick succession to level it up and force the game into extra time.

Australia stopped the Chinese charge during extra time, but couldn’t find the goal to end the contest and stop it from going to penalties.

The effect of Zhang in the penalty shootout was evident after the first kick, as she saved Australia’s first kick by McCallum and then third kick by Peters, while her teammates made no mistake converting all four penalty kicks.

The win was China’s eighth AFC Women’s Asian Cup title. China, Australia and third placed DPR Korea all qualify for the World Cup next year. Before the tournament China were ranked 8th, Korea 7th and Australia 15th in the world. 

Australian coach Tom Sermanni while disappointed by the result, was not disheartened by the performance shown by the team.

“I’m philosophical when it comes to penalty shootouts,” he said back at the team hotel after the game.

“They are a lottery and not really decided by skill, more by luck.

“To be honest, I would have been more disappointed if we had lost in normal time.

“These games are always close and we were playing against a quality side that is up there among the best teams in the world.

“To go right through to the final, then right to full time, and then the penalty shootout, was an outstanding effort from the girls and they can look back on this with pride.”

Sermanni believes the team has come a long way in this tournament and will serve them well as they prepare for next year’s Women’s World Cup in China.

“It’s been fabulous,” he said with a great deal of pride in his players.

“It was how we played, they have stepped up with their performances and in the manner of their approach to games.

“We actually looked like we belonged in that company and despite the result it was a sensational game between two very evenly matched teams.

“It was a great learning experience, which will no doubt help these girls immensely down the track.”

Football Federation Australia

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