Australia proved too good for hosts Chinese Taipei as they
defeated the islanders 8-1 in the third round of the preliminary
qualifying campaign for the Women's Olympic Football Tournament
on Sunday. The incredible result, coupled with their previous two
victories over Group C rivals Myanmar (2-0) and Uzbekistan (10-0),
saw the Matildas storm into the final qualifying stage, which will
run from 7 April to 12 August.
Having gone into the last group match with two successive victories, Chinese Taipei harboured hopes of winning the group. However, the visitors made a mockery of the theory of home advantage with towering striker Kate Gill looking unstoppable, scoring five, including the opener, to steer Australia to victory. Also on target were Sarah Walsh, Joanne Peters and Danielle Small.
"I'm quite pleased with the performance with all the players maintaining their focus and intensity despite the lop-sided nature of the match," said winning coach Tom Sermanni.
Despite the heavy defeat to Australia, Chinese Taipei still managed to book a place in the last eight thanks to hard-fought victories over Uzbekistan (2-0) and Myanmar (1-0).
Thailand and Vietnam progress
Joining the two teams in the qualifying finals are Thailand and Vietnam who finished top and runners-up of Group B respectively.
Thailand's path was relatively straightforward as they enjoyed three consecutive victories over Vietnam, Singapore and the Maldives to ensure a place in the next stage. Vietnam showed great resolve in bouncing back from their opening 1-0 defeat against the Thais, to record emphatic victories over Maldives (5-0) and Singapore (3-0) to advance.
A two-legged encounter will determine whether Korea Republic or Hong Kong finish as winners or runners-up in Group A. Korea Republic warmed up for the match with a comprehensive 8-0 aggregate victory over India. Hong Kong have automatically qualified by virtue of Jordan's withdrawal.
A century of appearances
With Australia standing out in the group stage, scoring 20 times en route to the last eight, Joanne Peters became just the third Australian footballer to reach a century of national team appearances after the game against Chinese Taipei where she found herself on the scoresheet.
The midfielder now sits behind current captain Cheryl Salisbury (127 appearances) and Anissa Tann (102 appearances) in terms of appearances for the Matildas. Also her goal against Chinese Taipei took her to the second place on the team's all-time scorers list with 24 goals, only six behind Salisbury.
As the next stage of the qualifying campaign looms closer and with the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup around the corner, the 27-year-old has a good chance to challenge Salisbury's record, just so long as she can maintain her prolific form.
A battle of two berths
Despite the straightforward nature of their success in this phase, Australia's group in the next round of qualifying looks to be a little tougher on paper as they have been given the formidable task of facing Korea DPR, Chinese Taipei and the winners of Group A in the next phase.
"We have now laid a good foundation for the next stage of qualifying in April, although we still have a little bit of work to do in order to bring us to the level that we were at for last year's World Cup qualifiers," said Sermanni.
With only the two group winners joining China as Asia's
representatives in the 2008 Women's Olympic Football
Tournament, the competition is set to be fierce.
Final qualifying round groups:
7 April-12 August
Group A: Japan, Thailand, Runners-up A, Vietnam
Group B: DPR Korea, Winner A, Australia, Chinese Taipei