Arriving in Chengdu, China PR for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2010, Australia had high hopes of being crowned continental champions for the first time, despite being ranked fourth on the continent. Dreams turned to reality as the Matildas claimed a slice of history as the first Australian team to win an Asian title at any level. Tom Sermanni’s charges will now go to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ confident they can improve on their breakthrough quarter-final showing at China 2007.
Korea DPR, beaten on penalties in a thrilling final, and Japan also qualified for the global finals, but traditional giants China will miss out on the competition for the first time in their illustrious history. FIFA.com reviews the 12-day tournament.
Long road to Germany
While Australia became the first nation in the world to qualify, Asia’s road to Germany 2011 kicked off way back in April 2009. The three-stage qualification campaign featured a record 16-team field, including the likes of Palestine, Maldives, Kyrgyzstan and Hong Kong. Japan, Korea DPR, China and Australia are positioned in the top 15 of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking - with only Europe able to boast such eminence - and Korea Republic were also optimistic of qualifying for next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
The South Koreans opened up against China and, despite the woodwork being hit five times - four by the visitors - the match remarkably finished goalless. That cost Korea Republic, who finished on four points from three games, allowing the host nation, who beat already-qualified Australia 1-0 in their last group game, to go through as section winners. Propping up the standings were Vietnam, who, drawn in the toughest pool, will take some solace from their opening match against the eventual champions, which resulted in a valiant two-goal defeat.
Group A quickly proved to be a two-horse race, with Japan and Korea DPR overpowering Myanmar and also Thailand, who were continental champions in 1983. Japan were imperious in their three group outings, scoring 14 goals and winning all three matches, including a last-day 2-1 triumph against Korea DPR which relegated the reigning champions to second. Thailand concluded their schedule with a 2-0 win over Myanmar to shore up third in the group.
Fine line between success and failure
Victory in the semi-final offered the dual reward of both a berth in the final, plus FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification, so it was little surprise that both matches, plus the final and third-placed play-off, were tight, tense affairs. First up were Japan and Australia with both regulars on the world stage, yet neither having ever won the Asian showpiece. The Nadeshiko went into the match in red-hot form while Australia had lost star striker Lisa De Vanna to a fractured leg in the previous match against China. Japan hit the woodwork once in each half through Kyoko Yano and Yukari Kinga, while Yuki Nagasato also spurned a golden opening. However the resilient Australians weathered the storm and Kate Gill expertly converted a rare sight of goal for a 1-0 win which ensured the Matildas booked their fifth consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance.
The second semi-final was similarly dominated by one team, however this time Korea DPR were eventually able to convert their supremacy into the most tangible of rewards. Despite numerous openings, it took an extra-time winner after 109 minutes from Kim Kyong-Hwa to separate the teams. The two nations had shared the last four Asian titles, and while the Koreans marched into yet another final, China, without ace forward Ma Xiaoxu due to a knee injury, were left with one remaining throw of the dice.
As it transpired the home side were unable to seriously threaten Japan in the battle to be Asia’s third and final representative in Germany and a goal in each half, courtesy of Duisburg forward Kozue Ando and legendary captain Homare Sawa, was enough for the Nadeshiko to claim a 2-0 win. The result meant the runners-up at USA 1999 missed the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time with Japan now remaining as the only Asian nation to appear at six tournaments dating back to the inaugural competition in 1991.
The Chengdu Sports Centre already has a special place in Matildas’ history being the venue where Australia scored a last-gasp equaliser against Canada in 2007 to reach the last eight of a FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time. The venue once again proved to be kind to the Australians who prevailed 5-4 on penalties in the final after taking the lead via the boot of 16-year-old Sam Kerr on 18 minutes, with Korea DPR equalising midway through the second half courtesy of a Jo Yun-Mi header. Following a goalless period of extra time, another teenager proved the hero for Australia with Kyah Simon scoring the final penalty after Korea’s Yu Song-Mi pulled her effort wide.
Fair Play Award
Most Valuable Player
Jo Yun-Mi (Korea DPR)