No one at the Kincho Stadium in Osaka, Japan saw this coming. But this is a result that is sure to get the football world talking. Norio Sasaki‘s Nadeshiko Japan played arguably their worst game since their 5-2 setback against the USWNT in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final last year, falling 3-1 in an upset to Alen Stajcic‘s Australia.
The Matildas are atop the final round standings of the 2016 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament with China, but there is a long ways yet to go. Lisa De Vanna (25′), Michelle Heyman (41′) and Katrina Gorry (78′) scored for the Matildas, while the Nadeshiko got their lone goal from Yuki Ogimi in the second minute of second half injury time.
“It is a very historic win, I think it’s the first time we’ve beaten Japan in Japan and from my memory it’s the first time we’ve beaten a World Cup champion in an official tournament so it’s certainly a big moment,” Stajcic said. “We’ve still got four matches left and we know they will be tough – we’ll enjoy this win for one hour and then we’ll focus on our next match because if we think this is enough then we won’t qualify.”
“We have no regrets about the result because we came fully prepared with a plan that we thought would work but they never really allowed us to settle into a rhythm,” Sasaki said. “Australia played a really aggressive style of football but the key point really was the defensive organisation of Australia and we need to switch our mindset to the next game.”
In other Olympic qualifying action in Osaka, Bruno Bini‘s China shut out Mai Duc Chung‘s Vietnam 2-0 at the Yanmar Stadium Nagai on goals from Gu Yasha (57′) and Zhang Rui (63′). Meanmwhile, Kim Kwang Min‘s DPR Korea and Yoon Duk Yeo‘s Korea Republic draw 1-1. Jung Sul Bin gave the Taeguk Ladies a lead 32 minutes in before Kim Un Ju equalized in the 80th minute.
“Since October I started coaching this team and this is not the best game we’ve had, but it’s also important that we picked up three points in the first match,” said Bini. “My team has a tendency to follow other teams like a chameleon, so if we are facing a team that’s not too strong we also play that way, but if we play the likes of England or USA we become stronger.
“So, when we play stronger teams here we’ll also be stronger – it’s also a good sign that we didn’t play a great game but still managed to win. Of course we are confident, if not we would return to China – we tried to make more goals but the score is what it is.”
“Before we came here we played a friendly tournament in China, there we lost 8-0 so our players knew what to do,” said Mai. “We had a chance to improve our fitness and we could keep up with China. Of course, most of the time we defended not attacked, but at half-time I said just to try your best and maybe we will lose but we can’t lose our spirit.
“If we compare China today and during the previous tournament, I think today China didn’t use their best players and they had some new players, so maybe China were trying to keep their fitness for the coming matches.”
“Today our players played really well, just like how we prepared in the training sessions building up to the game,” said Yoon of the draw. “In the second half, DPR Korea’s superior stamina saw them equalise. We prepared very well, but DPR Korea has outstanding physical capability compared to our team. We have done well in the first match, next up is Japan. I’d like to analyse their team and hope we can play better than tonight in that game.”
“In today’s game our players didn’t play very well or in keeping with my intentions. I think they were so excited to play in the first match,” said Kim of DPR Korea’s performance. “Unexpectedly we conceded first and now we have to do our best in the next game. I will tell my players to be calmer and to play as I know they can.”
After a rest day, Australia will look to flex its muscles against Vietnam, DPR Korea will have a crunch time match with China, and Japan will renew its longtime rivalry with Korea Republic, all on Mar. 2.