Japan v Australia: The Road to the Final
Amman: With the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 poised for one last epic showdown, the-AFC.com looks back at how Japan and Australia reached the biggest match in Asian women’s football.
The reigning champions will play in their fifth major tournament final in seven years after a challenging campaign, but one marked by steady improvement.
After kicking their campaign off with straightforward 4-0 win over Vietnam, the Nadeshiko faced a difficult first half in a scoreless encounter with Korea Republic before producing a much improved display, and securing a place in the semi-finals, in a gripping 1-1 draw against pre-tournament favourites Australia.
Asako Takakura’s side continued their upward trajectory with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over China PR in the semi-final, with Player of the Match Mana Iwabuchi opening the scoring, before a brace by substitute Kumi Yokoyama put the result beyond doubt.
WHAT THEY SAID: “We want to become a team that aims to become world champions. We are on that path and all the players are committed to doing that by representing Asia and by becoming Asian champions.” Asako Takakura after her side's semi-final win against China PR
Goals scored: 8
Goals conceded: 2
Top goalscorer: Kumi Yokoyama (3 goals)
DID YOU KNOW: Attacking star Mana Iwabuchi played in FIFA Women’s World Cup and Olympic Games deciders as a teenager, but will appear in her first AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final at the age of 25.
The highest-ranked team at Jordan 2018, Australia enjoyed pre-tournament favouritism but endured a tricky path to the final, twice relying on late equalisers to remain in the competition after falling into precarious positions.
After being held to a goalless draw by a determined Korea Republic in their opening match, the Matildas bounced back with an emphatic 8-0 win over Vietnam, setting up a crucial Matchday Three encounter.
With a draw sufficient to qualify for the semi-finals, Alen Stajcic’s side were four minutes away from elimination after falling behind in the second half, only for star striker Sam Kerr to score a crucial 86th minute equaliser.
Their semi-final experience was even more arduous, with Alanna Kennedy’s injury-time header salvaging a 2-2 draw against Thailand before the Australians finally prevailed in a penalty shootout.
WHAT THEY SAID: ““Not only is there good skill, good fitness and good speed in our team, there’s also good team spirit and they will to fight to the end, so I’m really proud of the group for that quality that we have.” Alen Stajcic after his side's Matchday Three draw against Japan
Goals scored: 11
Goals conceded: 3
Top goalscorer: Sam Kerr (3 goals)
DID YOU KNOW: Australia is the first team since China PR (1986-1999) to reach the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final in three consecutive editions of the tournament.