The CommBank Junior Matildas have qualified for the AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup Indonesia 2024™ after defeating Vietnam 2-1 in Hanoi.
Australia started the game with the majority of possession and chances. However, it was Vietnam who scored first. After receiving the ball in transition, Vietnam’s No9 Thanh Hieu rounded goalkeeper Layla Adams and gave her side the lead midway through the first half.
The youngsters continued to create chances and they soon paid off. Grace Kuilamu won a corner after a precise ball over the top from Indiana Dos Santos. The side had looked threatening all game from the set pieces of Kiera Meyers and this was no exception, her corner perfectly finding the head of Sienna Dale who equalised.
Dale doubled her tally minutes later. After superb work from Kuilamu in shrugging off her defender and finding some space, she fired a cross to the back post from the by-line. The Manly United junior was there again, and – from some way out – was able to rifle her header home to make it 2-1 at halftime.
Coach Rae Dower changed it up at half-time, subbing on Lillian Skelly and Madeline Caspers. Skelly in particular was immediately lively on the left-hand side.
The game continued in a similar pattern in the second half. Australia were the team with the majority of the ball, usually in Vietnam’s half, but the well-organised and resolute defence of their opponents proved difficult to break down.
Shelby McMahon and Chloe Parker entered in the 78th minute. Parker was unlucky not to win a penalty soon after coming on, showing off her skills with a dazzling run into the box.
Vietnam continued to threaten in transition but ultimately, Australia were too strong, and came away with the three points.
Vietnam: 1 (Ngân Thị Thanh Hiếu 28')
Australia U-17: 2 (Sienna Dale 42' 45+1')
Tournament: 2024 AFC U-17 Women's Asian Cup Round 2 Qualifiers - Group B
Date: Friday 22 September 2023
Venue: Yanmar Field, Vietnam Youth Football Training Center, Hanoi
Kick-off: 7:00pm (Local) / 10:00pm AEST
Referee: Supiree Testhomya (Thailand)
Assistant Referees: Riiohlang Dhar (India) & Fang Yan (China PR)
Fourth Official: Sejin Park (Korea Republic)
Australia: 18. Layla Adams (GK), 2. Kiera Meyers (23. Chloe Parker 78'), 3. Amelia Tartaglia, 4. Ruby Cuthbert, 6. Ischia Brooking (7. Shelby McMahon 78'), 8. Talia Younis, 9. Grace Kuilamu (c), 10. Indiana Dos Santos (5. Madeleine Caspers 45'), 11. Sienna Dale (22. Emma Dundas 90+2'), 13. Isabela Hoyos, 19. Georgia Groidis (20. Lillian Skelly 45')
Substitutes not used: 1. Jessica Skinner (GK), 12. Georgia Ritchie (GK), 14. Annabelle Yates, 15. Sian Dewey, 16. Ava Carlson, 17. Mikayla Duong, 21. Tiana Fuller
Comments from Head Coach, Rae Dower, following the victory: Dower praised her team for their composure during a tough match.
"I couldn’t be prouder of the team tonight to come from behind again and secure all 3 points in very trying conditions, against a raucous home crowd and stifling heat. This team just keep working hard for each other, staying positive and know that their qualities will eventually shine through," she said.
"The level of maturity and teamwork shown, in sticking to our strengths and our game plan to find a way to take all 3 points shows just how much character we have in the group.
"They have this resilience and belief in themselves and each other. Tonight was a very difficult match in so many ways. The girls know how proud I am, and we as a staff are of them for taking on all that adversity, fighting back and playing our own brand of football to take the win."
With one more game to play, Dower explained how important these matches have been in developing the young squad on the international stage.
"I always say that the pitch is a great classroom and there are some valuable lessons that we’ve learned tonight as individuals, and as a team. We dominated in most aspects of the game and moved the ball really well for the most part against a style of football that we just don’t get exposed to at home in Australia," she said.
"You can’t replicate that kind of atmosphere and that whole experience in a training session. This is what all our teams from Australia have to encounter if we want to get a seat at that coveted table to play in Asian Cups and World Cups. Tonight's game does so much to expedite the learning for all of us, players and staff and that will have a positive aspect for us on Sunday and beyond.
Our first assignment is now ticked off in securing qualification to the AFC Women’s U17 Championships next year in Indonesia, but we’re hungry to win 3 from 3 here on Sunday. We want to take the opportunity to put in another good performance, keep evolving our game and learning more about how we want to play, how we want to compete and how we deal with adversity. Every opportunity to play together gives us the chance to improve and to practice what it takes to win," Dower continued.
"The only sour note is a couple of injuries to our players. For the rest of the team, it is all about recovery and getting them rested, treated, fuelled and ready again to face Bangladesh in a little over 36 hours time."
The CommBank Junior Matildas will now play Bangladesh on Sunday, 4pm local time (7pm AEST). A point will be enough to finish top of the group and put a final flourish on a successful qualifying campaign.