Match Day 3 of the 2016 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament Final Round has concluded and Alen Stajcic‘s Australia remain ahead of the pack heading into a critical juncture next Monday. Meanwhile, the FIFA Women’s World Cup runners-up, Japan, are all but eliminated from qualification with two matches remaining. We tipped Japan to be the first one through, and it looks like they may be among the last ones out instead.
But let’s start with the opener, readers. At the Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka, Japan, Ju Hyo Sim‘s 90th minute goal was enough to keep Kim Kwang Min‘s DPR Korea in the hunt with a 1-0 win over Mai Duc Chung‘s Golden Girls of Vietnam.
“It was so difficult for us to score today. But this is not the end of this competition and we have to just focus on the next two matches,” said Kim. “Compared to the qualifiers for the last Olympic Games in London, Asian women’s football has really improved so we cannot expect to achieve results at this stage of the qualifiers. Only time will tell who will make it through to Rio 2016.”
“Today we are very satisfied with the team. Even though we lost in the last minute we are very satisfied, the players did well and concentrated and tried their best,” said Mai. “We are the only team in the final round of qualifiers representing the South East region. Even being here is a success. Maybe we won’t make it to the Olympics, but we will ask the players to fight and try to win the last two games.”
Back at Yanmar Stadium Nagai, goals from Kyah Simon (1′) and Emily Van Egmond (14′), who was completing 50 international caps, powered the world-famous Matildas to a 2-0 win over Yoon Duk Yeo’s Taeguk Ladies of South Korea.
Meanwhile, at Osaka’s Kincho Stadium, Bruno Bini’s Steel Roses have Olympic dreams of their own in their 2-1 win over Japan. Zhang Rui (14′) and Gu Yasha (58′) scored for China in the win. Kumi Yokoyama scored in the 65th minute but it was not enough.
“My players played a very beautiful game tactically and physically tonight. I am very satisfied with what we did in today’s game. It went exactly as we planned,” Bini said. “For us today there was no such thing as substitutions – everyone was involved in the game. It would also have been a very difficult game to come into as there was a lot of intensity. We can only focus on our own team. As you know, the job of coach takes lots of energy so I can only focus on our team. We don’t have time to focus on other teams.”
“We had to win today, but we couldn’t get the result. If we look at last few matches and also at the World Cup its been difficult to score goals, so that’s one of the things we’ve tried to fix in training and when we think about the future of the Nadeshiko it’s one area we have to work on,” Sasaki said. “We made it to the final at the last three competitions but the situation in Asia and the world is that things are growing and others are getting stronger, as we can see in the results. China was a very high level today, better than us, and that’s why we lost. It’s not only because we couldn’t score, it’s not just about a backpass that went wrong, but overall the Chinese team was half a step ahead of us.”
Here’s what the standings look like after three match days.
On Match Day 4, China will look to qualify for Rio with a victory over Korea Republic. As for the Matildas, all they need is a draw over Korea DPR and the contest between China and Australia will be a tuneup game for the Olympics. Vietnam and Japan, meanwhile, will only be playing for pride as both teams are eliminated from qualifying. Japan can mathematically return to the picture but they need wins from the Matildas and Taeguk Ladies and a win on their end or it is truly, truly over for them.