The Westfield Matildas secured themselves not only a 1-0 win against Japan that placed them into the AFC Women’s Asian Cup final, but a win that sent them directly to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 in Germany.
A goal from Kate Gill in first half stoppage time was enough for the Westfield Matildas to qualify for their second AFC Women’s Asian Cup final in four years.
Against the highly rated Nadeshiko, Australia were resolute in defence with captain Melissa Barbieri marshalling the Australian side with authority.
An early opportunity for both sides to convert early was followed by expected periods of Japan possession dominance.
Australia’s best early chance came courtesy of a free kick awarded due to a handball.
Collette McCallum, a natural in these situations, placed a ball into the area with Japanese goalkeeper Kaihori Ayumi punching the ball back into play, only for it land it in the area of Australian fullback Lauren Colthorpe. Japan eventually cleared the opportunity.
Japan responded to the scare by constructing together series of passes that left the Westfield Matildas’ scrambling to cover. The tournament favourites were living up to their billing and placing the Australian defence and goalkeeper Barbieri under immense pressure.
However it was the Aussies who hit the scoreboard first in the final stages of stoppage time of the first half.
Australia’s sole target forward, Gill headed on a Servet Uzunlar free kick into the area. Japan scrambled to clear but only falling to Gill who took advantage of her position inside the area, perfectly placing the ball at the top of the net.
The second half saw a more balanced play, however Barbieri found herself still under the same direct pressure as Japan were frantic to find an equaliser. Nadeshiko superstar Aya Miyama put a scare through the Australian camp twice but Barbieri held firm.
The only chance to follow that looked promising for Japan came in the 68th minute by Kinga Yukari, but the shot narrowly missing over the top bar.
Australia’s franticness eased as the clock counted down and even had an opportunity late to land a second goal when substitute Sam Kerr took on four defenders before finding a deep run from Polkinghorne.
The midfielder’s effort went agonisingly close but despite the miss, the Westfield Matildas held on to defeat a Japanese side that scored a combined 14 goals in their group stage.
At the conclusion of the game, Sermanni shared his belief that his had what it takes to take out the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, after devastatingly falling short to China in their last attempt.
"I would like to congratulate my players on their magnificent effort. I thought their defensive discipline and our effort and concentration were outstanding,” he said.
This group of players now feel that they can beat anybody. It was the biggest pressure game that we have had so far in this tournament and was against the team we felt are the best."
“We go into Sunday's final without any real pressure and a great deal of confidence having beaten Japan,” he concluded.
Australia 1 (Katie Gill 45’+1)
AUSTRALIA Line Up:
1. Melissa Barbieri (GK), 4. Clare Polkinghorne, 5. Lauren Colthorpe (27. Aivi Luik, 82'), 6. Servet Uzunlar, 7. Heather Garriock, (22. Sam KERR), 12. Kate Gill, 14. Collette McCallum, 15. Sally SHIPARD, 16. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 23. Kim CARROLL, 9. Sarah WALSH (31. Teigen ALLEN, 61')
Substitutes: 3. Karla Reuter, 10. Kylie Ledbrook, 13. Thea Slatyer, 17. Kyah Simon, 18. Lydia Williams (RGK), 19. Leena Khamis, 24. Tameka Butt, 25. Casey Dumont (RGK)
Coach: Tom Sermanni (Australia)
JAPAN Line Up:
12. Kaihori Ayumi (GK), 2. Iwashimizu Azusa, 3. Yano Kyoko (17. Kamionabe Megumi, 88'), 4. Kumagai Saki, 5. Kinga Yukari, 6. Sameshima Aya, 8. Miyama Ayu, 9. Nagasato Yuki, 10. Sawa Homare, 13. Yamaguchi Mami (7. Ando Kozue, 35'), 16. Sudo Akiko (14. Utsugi Rumi, 59')
Substitutes: 1. Yamago Nozomi (RGK), 11. Ohno Shinobu, 15. Toyoda Nayuha, 18. Nakano Manami, 20. Sugasawa Yuika, 21. Fukumoto Miho (rgk), 22. Takase Megumi, 24. Kawasumi Nahomi, 36. Minamiyama Chiaki
Coach: Sasaki Norio