World champions Japan edged Australia 1-0 to win their first AFC Women's Asian Cup title in a hard-fought final in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday. Azusa Iwashimizu got the game's only goal from a corner in the first half and despite waves of attack from the defending champions, Japan's Nadeshiko held firm.
The win swelled Japan's already impressive list of honours which includes the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™ and silver at the 2012 London Olympic Football Tournament. Defender Iwashimizu was also the heroine in the semi-finals, when she scored at the end of extra time to settle a thriller against eight-time winners China.
On Sunday, the 27-year-old was on target in the 28th minute for a goal which was ultimately enough to relieve Australia's Matildas of the Asian title. Mid-way through the second half, Yuika Sugasawa's shot cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and onto the line, and shortly afterwards Yuri Kawamura cleared the ball off the Japanese line to deny Australia an equaliser.
But there was to be no more scoring and as the final whistle blew, the Nadeshiko hugged each other in delight while Australia's players sat glumly on the pitch.
Earlier, China PR rallied from their heartbreaking semi-final loss to Japan to beat Korea Republic 2-1 and claim third place. Yang Li headed the winner in the dying seconds as the Steel Roses recovered from Thursday's rollercoaster semi, settled by Iwashimizu's extra-time winner.
"Especially after playing 125 minutes on Thursday it was very special to win this game," said China's coach Hao Wei, according to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website. "And we did so well in the mental and physical aspects of the game that it gives me hope that there's a great foundation to improve upon in the future."
The competition's top five finishers - Japan, Australia, China PR, Korea Republic and Thailand - all won berths to next year's Women's World Cup in Canada, where the Nadeshiko will defend their title.