Young Matildas book Thailand ticket
There were no shocks or surprises as Australia roared to book a berth at the FIFA Women's U-19 World Championship Thailand with a first-place finish at the final Oceania qualifying tournament. With only minnows Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to circumnavigate, Adrian Santrac's Young Matildas proved queens of the South Seas yet again, and will star as lone Oceania representatives at their second consecutive U-19 showpiece in Thailand this November.
Despite rumblings of improvement and increased parity in the region, the three-team, round robin tournament proved once more just who rules the roost Down Under. In their first match with the Solomon Islands, the young Aussie lasses stormed through to take the honours 13-0. What would seem an absurd scoreline for most international-calibre football matches was simply par-for-the-course for the dominant Young Matildas.
Goals galore from Down Under
Leena Khamis scored a remarkable five goals in the match, which saw the Solomon Islands' defence under a constant state of barrage. The young striker opened her account in only the fourth minute and never looked back. Oddly though her opener was not the first goal of the game as Matilda senior team member Selin Kuralay made it 1-0 before the 60-second mark at the Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby Papua New Guinea.
In the end it was a long day for Solomons' keeper Betty Sade, who had been her side's shining hero just days before. In their opener with the hosts, it was her acrobatic heroics that helped push a shock 0-0 draw.
With one win under their belts, the only thing that stood between Australia and a second trip to the FIFA U-19 World Championship was a victory over hosts Papua New Guinea. With four players making their U-19 debut in the match, and a host of changes from the side that hammered the Solomons, there must have been some nail-biting on the Aussie touchline before the contest.
And though they conceded a goal, the 14 they scored at the other end in front of over 4000 partisan spectators proved more than enough to see them through as deserved Oceania champs. Down 0-9 at the break, PNG's Neilen Kimbai's second-half penalty was little more than mere consolation. Kuralay and Kylie Ledbrook each earned hat tricks for Australia in the rout.
Goals set, aims met
"We came here with the aim of qualifying for the world championship and we've achieved that - we're very very pleased," Santrac told AustraliaSoccer.com. "We obviously want to do well in Thaliand", he added. "At the last championship in 2002, the team did very, very well -- finishing fifth. We want to go to this one and see if we can do the same or better."
Valiant Papua New Guinea were awarded second-place due to their superior tally of one goal. The hosts also took home the Fair Play award.
The Solomons' though will feel no shame as they made proud strides forward in their first continental competition.
Australia now join Thailand in the 12-team field for the U-19 showcase. At the inaugural FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship, Australia reached the quarter-finals. In the end, only a Brazil golden goal (3-4) kept them from reaching the rarefied air of a semi-final spot.