Australia go down to Japan in Asia Cup Final26 May 2014
FOOTBALL: The Australian women's football team's hopes of back-to-back continental titles have ended after going down 1-0 to Japan in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final on Sunday night in Vietnam.
The deciding goal came in the first half after the Australians were caught napping from a corner which allowed Azusa Iwashimizu to scramble home the eventual winner to give the World Cup Champions their first Asian Cup trophy.
Despite the Matildas’ never-say-die attitude, a tiring Japan were able to hold on to leave Australia taking home runner up medals from the tournament.
“The first thing I want to do is congratulate Japan, they’re a fantastic team and they again showed why they’re in the top two or three in the world,” Matildas Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic said post match.
“I’m extremely proud of our team. I thought that we fought right to the end, we had lots of chances in the first 15 minutes and then throughout the second half I thought we were a threat.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the goal but I’m proud of how much the team has improved in the tournament and hopefully by the time we reach the World Cup next year we can improve that little bit more in our execution and beat those big countries.”
Australia was on top early at Thong Nhat stadium with Sam Kerr almost scoring in the opening minute, a brilliant through ball from Lisa De Vanna inside the first 60 seconds not dealt with but Kerr could not find the target.
She nearly took advantage again minutes later as the Japanese defence was caught out but she was not able to connect before Michelle Heyman sent a header straight at Japanese keeper Miho Fukumoto.
Japan slowly worked their way back into the contest and their dominant period eventually saw them hit the front on 28 minutes.
A clever variation from a corner saw the ball played to the edge of the box before a deep curling cross to the far post caused confusion in defence, Iwashimizu directing her header between a clutch of defenders and keeper Lydia Williams onto the post before it rolled over the line.
The goal shook up the Matildas as Japan went in search of another with the likes of Kawasumi and Miyama causing headaches but the Australians held firm.
Heyman sought to shake things up with a hefty shoulder challenge on Sawa before De Vanna found Heyman superbly only to see Fukumoto just intercept in time.
Australia came out after half time with greater urgency and purpose and continued to ask questions of the Japanese defence.
Kerr combined with Heyman but her powerful strike from outside the box went straight into the arms of the keeper, which was followed minutes later with another great chance just sailing wide of the post after a probing ball from Emily van Egmond.
Stajcic introduced Tameka Butt and Caitlin Foord as the Matildas’ need for an equaliser intensified, but it was Japan that next came close as Sugasawa hit the bar.
However the Matildas were not done with and almost drew level within a minute, Katrina Gorry setting up Kerr with a perfect cross into the box but her volleyed goal was deemed offside.
The fresher Australians pressed in the latter stages with Kerr going close, but the Japanese are not ranked number three in the world and reigning World Champions for nothing, and they held on for a historic win.
The majority of the Matildas’ Australian based players will arrive in Sydney on Tuesday morning.