Australia will battle against Korea Republic on Thursday night 11:45pm (AEST) at Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh City, for a place in the 2014 Asian Cup final.
The Matildas, defending champions from 2010, will have a game on their hands coming up against challenging opposition from the attacking Korean squad.
For the Australians, the pressure to qualify for the World Cup has been lifted so they can now solely focus on making it to the final and defending their title and to this point they have had a modest run.
They have acclimatised to the conditions and will be looking to make the most of their opportunities with their budding confidence.
To win the match, the Matildas will need to play their own game and not get dragged into the antics or tactics of the opposition. The slow down strategies used by Jordan and Vietnam are a thing of the past.
Korea is an all out attacking side who will be looking to blast the ball into the net from everywhere across the pitch. Powerful striker Park Eun Sun is joint leader on the goalscoring table and definitely a player to watch out for with Clare Polkinghorne likely to have the role of controlling her.
The Matildas must work harder to keep their structure and not allow themselves to be drawn out by the opposition. Not only that, but they will also need to focus on consistency, decision making and cleaner execution around the ground.
If the Matildas can recreate the first 30 minutes of their match against Japan, they’re definitely in with a chance. They played attacking football just like what interim head coach Alen Stajcic demands of them.
“The goal is that by the time we get to game 5 in the final, we will really be an attacking minded, possession based team who uses a range of strategies to score goals; counter attacks, possession, full backs getting forward and having attacking midfielders who penetrate as well,” he told The Women’s Game prior to the tournament.
It won’t be easy though. No team has scored against the Koreans in this tournament and Korea have scored more than twice the number of goals as Australia.
So who is playing well for the Aussies and who should you watch out for in the semi final?
Pocket rocket Katrina Gorry has left no-one wondering how good she is. It’s all out there on the pitch. The Matildas were looking disjointed and hapless in their second pool match against Jordan before Gorry stepped in and increased the intensity and Gorry has been one of the most consistent players in the pool matches.
World class striker Lisa De Vanna is definitely a player to watch. De Vanna is hungry for the title and will stop at nothing to lift the trophy after missing out in 2010 with a broken leg.
“I’m just hungry. I missed out. Obviously the situation is a bit different compared to last Asian Cup as there were three spots to qualify for the World Cup [compared to five now] so to make the final you’ve qualified so the mentality is a little bit different but I missed out on that and I want to be part of that so I’m going to do as much as I can to get to the finals.”
When asked what she was needed to improve the team, De Vanna responded by saying that the Aussies needed to move the ball as quickly as possible.
“Movement has to be a little more dynamic, sharper off the ball and less touches to play forward quicker.”
“Whenever you play against [the better] Asian teams it’s never easy. You’re not going to get much of the possession of the ball, you just have to counterattack and work on those type of things.”
De Vanna is also pleased to see and hear support for Australia in the crowd.
From the womensgame.com
“It’s nice to have people cheering. Family, friends and fans coming out to support us. Those little yells and shouts of support helps us a little bit. It means a lot.”
“Hopefully people back home are going to support us and back us up all the way.”
Likewise keep an eye out for Caitlin Foord, whether she’s playing as a right back or attacking down the line, Foord has been one of the most exciting players for the Matildas so far in this tournament and her versatility could be a crucial difference in this semi final.
Last but not least, Teigen Allen has been dependable throughout the pool matches and is almost unstoppable so far and virtually flawless every minute she plays.
Australia’s opponents Korea Republic enter the semi finals full of confidence, and so they should. The Koreans qualified for their first World Cup in 12 years with minimal fuss.
Korea are typical of football in Asia. Excellent technique that allows for quick ball movement, short and sharp interchanges of passes and control of the game.
Despite their match control, Korea Republic still have a number of weaknesses. Firstly that final pass and finish has eluded them in recent years. While they were ruthless in their group stages against Thailand and Myanmar with 16 goals, they struggled to put it together in the final third against China.
Whether it was because that match had little bearing on the knock out stage, they will need more creativity and a clinical finish. The creativity factor won’t be helped by the departure of influential playmaker Ji So Yun.
The 23 year old, like Japan’s Yuki Ogimi, returned to her FA WSL side Chelsea Ladies after helping securing World Cup qualification for Korea. In her absence Yoon Dukyeo’s side will be looking to midfielders Jeon Ga Eul and Kwon Hah Nul to step into the breach.
Up front Korea Republic boast three out of the top five tournament goalscorers in the above mentioned Jeon (3), Cho so Hyun (3) and the leading scorer Park Eun Sun. Park, although with excellent skills, is atypical of an AFC footballer. She is tall, physically strong with a powerful shot with all those attributes a challenge for the Australian defence to contend with.
With so many avenues to goal the Matildas will be hard pressed to shut down all routes while creating their own against the Group B winners.
In the end, this match is anticipated to be a close, tight encounter where the margins of victory will be small.
AFC Women’s Asian Cup – Semi Final
Korea Republic v Westfield Matildas
Thursday 22 May 2014
Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh
Kick-Off: 8.45pm local time (11.45pm AEST)
LIVE & exclusive on Fox Sports 2 and 2HD
Westfield Matildas squad: 1.Brianna DAVEY (gk), 2.Teigen ALLEN, 3.Kim CARROLL, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Leena KHAMIS, 7.Hayley RASO, 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD, 10.Emily VAN EGMOND, 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 12.Kate GILL, 13.Tameka BUTT, 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 15.Nicola BOLGER, 16.Stephanie CATLEY, 17.Teresa POLIAS, 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 19.Katrina GORRY, 20.Samantha KERR, 21.Casey DUMONT (gk), 22.Ashleigh SYKES, 23.Michelle HEYMAN, 24.Emma CHECKER
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
Played 14; Australia 9; Korea Republic 3; Draws 2