Matildas secure FIFA World Cup berth

Alanna Kennedy takes aim for the Matildas. Photo: Getty Images

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Westfield Matildas have secured their place at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada thanks to a gritty 2-0 AFC Women’s Asian Cup win over a determined Vietnam at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City last night.

Report courtesy Football Federation Australia

Needing at least a draw for a top-two group finish to confirm their passage through to the semi-finals and automatic qualification to the World Cup for a sixth time, the Matildas were made to work hard for the result, which was only sealed in the 90th minute thanks to a cracking strike from Katrina Gorry.

A fortuitous own goal handed the Matildas a deserved and valuable half-time lead as a torrential downpour after the break made conditions more difficult. Despite some shaky moments, the Matildas managed to hold their nerve to keep their AFC Women’s Asian Cup title defence alive.

They finished second in the group behind Japan, who disposed of Jordan 7-0 in the other Group A game.

Interim head coach Alen Stajcic was justifiably proud of his players but declared the Matildas would have to raise their game considerably if they were to win the tournament.

“It wasn’t easy tonight and they still came away with a win,” Stajcic said.

“They’ve qualified for the World Cup and now we’ve really got to focus on improving our football so we can be a threat at that World Cup next year.

“I thought they (Vietnam) knocked three or four balls over the top that we didn’t deal with well at all, so it’s certainly an area we need to improve on.

“The conditions didn’t help us but some of the decision making at the back wasn’t great either. There were some good passages of play but certainly some of the execution and decision making and creativity in that front third wasn’t the best tonight and I think if we’re going to be a threat that has to improve.

“The three objectives coming in were to qualify for the World Cup, win the Asian Cup and improving our football. I thought the first game (against Japan) was good. I thought the second game and tonight there were just small passages of play that were good, so there is plenty of room for improvement going into the semi-final.”

Vietnam were trying to qualify for their first ever World Cup and the Matildas found it difficult in front of a boisterous home crowd.

A key to success for the Matildas was always going to be how they unlocked a well structured and disciplined Vietnam defensive unit but for large parts they lacked the cutting edge and clinical finishing to capitalise on their wealth of possession.

Lisa De Vanna spotted Michelle Heyman lurking unmarked at the back post inside five minutes but she could not direct her header on target and that was the story for much of the opening half for the Matildas. Emily van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy and Clare Polkinghorne all could have broken through but they were wayward with their opportunities.

Tuyet Dung flashed a shot a metre over the bar to show the hosts were not intimidated by the defending champions and they created some anxious moments for the Australians, the Matildas just managing to clear the ball after a mad scramble in their penalty area.

It was seemingly going to take a moment of individual brilliance to break the deadlock and Caitlin Foord almost provided it in the 38th minute with a trademark darting run inside, playing a one-two with Heyman, before somehow putting her eventual shot into the side netting from close range.

Then in the 42nd minute the Matildas were given a helping hand when they were awarded an indirect free kick 10m out after the referee penalised the Vietnamese for a deliberate back pass, despite questions over whether the preceding touch was a reflex action rather than intentional.

But the Matildas kindly accepted the invitation, van Egmond drilling the ball low and hard and it eventually found its way across the goal line in a crowd of bodies, the last touch coming from Vietnam captain Le Thi Thuong.

Looking to land the knockout blow, van Egmond brought a superb diving save from Vietnamese keeper Tuyet May that was heading for the bottom corner before the rain began to tumble.

Tameka Butt’s first start of the tournament lasted 61 minutes before she was replaced by Samantha Kerr and soon after De Vanna thought she had manufactured a second goal, her shot taking a deflection and skidding just wide of the post.

Vietnam were relying heavily on their number 11 Nguyen Thi Nguyet as their main attacking avenue and her pace and persistence nearly forced a calamity in the Australian penalty area in the 82nd minute as the Matildas defence were in a panic, doing just enough to prevent the ball from going over the goal line.

But Gorry put rest to any doubt of the result with an unstoppable missile from just outside the penalty area in the final minute of regulation time to book the Matildas’ place in the Semi Finals and their ticket to Canada next year.

The Westfield Matildas now await the result of Korea Republic and China tonight to determine their semi-final opponents. The semi-finals will be played on Thursday.

Westfield Matildas’ matches in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup are LIVE & exclusive on Fox Sports.

Vietnam 0
Westfield Matildas 2 (Thuong 42’ (og), Gorry 90’)
Referee: Pannipar Kamnueng (Thailand)
Crowd: 3,000 at Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh

Vietnam: 14.Le Thi TUYET MAY (gk), 5.Bui Thi NHU, 6.Pham Hoang QUYNH, 7.Nguyen Thi Tuyet DUNG, 10.Nguyen Thi HOA, 11.Nguyen Thi NGUYET, 12.Vu Thi NHUNG, 15.Nguyen Thi Ngoc ANH, 16.Le Thi THUONG (9.Tran Thi Thuy TRANG 73’), 20.Nguyen Thi MAI, 23.Tran Thi KIM HONG (19.Tran Thi HONG NHUNG 63’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Dang Thi Kieu TRINH (gk), 2.Nguyen Thi XUYEN, 3.Chuong Thi KIEU, 4.Nguyen Thi NGA, 8.Nguyen Thi Minh NGUYET, 13.Nguyen Thi MUON, 17.Nguyen HAI HOA, 18.Nguyen Thi LIEU, 21.Tran Thi KIM THANH (gk), 22.Le Thu Thanh HUONG
Yellow cards: Tran Kim Hong 59’
Red cards: Nil

Westfield Matildas: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE (c), 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD (2.Teigen ALLEN 46’), 10.Emily VAN EGMOND, 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 13.Tameka BUTT (20.Samantha KERR 62’), 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 16.Stephanie CATLEY, 19.Katrina GORRY, 23.Michelle HEYMAN (12.Kate GILL 82’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Brianna DAVEY (gk), 3.Kim CARROLL, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Leena KHAMIS, 7.Hayley RASO, 15.Nicola BOLGER, 17.Teresa POLIAS, 21.Casey DUMONT (gk), 22.Ashleigh SYKES, 24.Emma CHECKER
Yellow cards: Foord 26’
Red cards: Nil