World Cup cheer for China, heartbreak for Australia
Nanjing: China PR secured a ticket to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France, producing their best performance of the tournament to beat Australia 3-0 to claim third place at the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship in Nanjing on Saturday.
He Luyao scored early, before a second half burst ensured the Young Steel Roses will return to the global youth championship after having missed the 2016 edition, while the drought continues for Australia, who haven’t qualified since 2006.
After resting the large majority of his first team for the semi-final against DPR Korea, Australian head coach Gary van Egmond made 10 personnel changes, with Ellie Carpenter the only player to start both knockout matches.
There was much more continuity in the Chinese line-up, with Zhao Yujie the only new face, and they started in a positive manner, with Zhi Jie in particular causing problems on the left.
A succession of setpieces troubled the Australian defence, before a low near-post corner from Liu Jing caused mass confusion, and – after a scramble – He Luyao (pictured above) popped up to squeeze the ball home and give China a precious lead.
Australia attempted to hit back, and while Princess Ibini was a handful at times, they struggled to create anything going forward.
That was in stark contrast to their opponents, who nearly capitalised on a superb run from Cen Qiaozhu before another Liu corner kick almost flew straight in moments later.
With Australia fighting what appeared to be a losing battle, van Egmond introduced Cortnee Vine at half time, but China immediately resumed control, with Zhao Yujie producing a great run before firing her shot over the crossbar from 20 metres.
Hesterine de Reus’ side then broke the game wide open in the 53rd minute, doubling their advantage when Xie Qiwen* (pictured above)* got goal-side of her defence before emphatically beating Jada Mathyssen-Whyman from close range to make it 2-0.
China’s ticket to France was as good as booked just a minute later, when Mathyssen-Whyman had a moment to forget, fumbling Jin Kun’s (pictured below) shot into the net as Australian hopes of qualification sank.
It was a cruel way for the goalkeeper to concede, but China’s three-goal lead was thoroughly deserved, and, with the pressure off, they played with confidence and verve, with the excellent Xie coming close a number of times.
Australia’s best chance fell to Vine, but her heavy touch allowed goalkeeper Peng Shimeng to claim the ball after the substitute had got in behind the defence.
But the Young Matildas were well beaten by a Chinese side that shrugged the disappointment of a losing semi-final to produce their best performance – one which earned them a merited place in the U-20 Women’s World Cup - when it mattered most.
Hesterine de Reus: Head Coach, China PR
“Of course everybody’s very happy, especially the players. I’m very proud of them because they were tired, and everyone can see they were tired, but they stuck together, played together and produced a great effort to show everybody that they really wanted to secure the ticket to the World Cup. We spoke about mentality, because everybody knows its quality in Australia to never say die. My players came to the field with a great mentality and equalised in that aspect. I think all the players in my team have talent and potential, and if they play more football and more competitions they can reach a higher level, and be on the level of DPR Korea and Japan.”
Gary van Egmond: Head Coach, Australia
“In regards to today, I think the occasion was probably too much for our girls. I think they overthought it a bit, and we probably left it to the last game to give our worst performance. We have to work with our development pathway to produce better technical players and players with better understanding. In the first half we struggled to string two passes together, and when you play the game we want to play – which is based on keeping the ball – this becomes a big issue. I’m extremely proud of the girls’ effort throughout the tournament, but today was too big a step, and I’d really like to congratulate China on their win."