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San Diego: With Australia poised to add a new international competition to their honours list, and Japan renewing a classic modern rivalry, the-AFC.com previews the final day of action at the Tournament of Nations in the United States.

Australia v Brazil
FIFA Rankings: Australia 7, Brazil 8
Head-to-head: 15 matches (Brazil 9 wins, Australia 5 wins, 1 draw)
Last meeting: Brazil 0 Australia 0 (Brazil won 7-6 on penalties) – 2016 Olympic Games quarter-final; Belo Horizonte, Brazil

The Matildas only need to avoid defeat to become the tournament’s first ever champions, but Thursday’s fixture also presents an opportunity to avenge a painful loss from the past.

Last August, the Australians were a single successfully converted penalty away from a place in the Olympic Games semi-finals after holding hosts Brazil to a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes.

In front of over 53,000 fans in Belo Horizonte, Brazilian goalkeeper Barbara’s heroics – saving spot-kicks from Katrina Gorry and Alanna Kennedy - shattered Australia’s Olympic dream, but Alen Stajcic’s charges have reached new heights since.

Superb wins over the United States and Japan have turned heads and grabbed headlines, with striker Sam Kerr’s first-half hat-trick against the Asian Champions earning unanimous praise.

Kerr’s virtuoso display against the Nadeshiko follows a sustained purple patch in the US-based National Women’s Soccer League, where the 23-year-old has registered 11 goals so far this campaign.

Also among the NWSL’s golden boot race is evergreen Brazilian forward Marta. The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year has scored eight times this season at domestic level, but is yet find the net in this tournament.

Brazil squandered a 3-1 second-half lead in the previous match against the United States, conceding three goals in the final 10 minutes as the hosts charged home to secure a dramatic 4-3 win.

The Matildas – who will meet Brazil twice more in home-based September friendlies – may still become the tournament’s maiden winners if they lose to Brazil, provided the United States fail to defeat Japan in the evening fixture.


United States v Japan
FIFA Rankings:
 United States 1, Japan 6
Head-to-head: 14 matches (United States 9 wins, Japan 1 win, 4 draws)
Last meeting: United States 3 Japan 3 – 2016 Friendly; Denver, United States

In a repeat of the last two FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals, Japan’s new generation of players have another chance to impress coach Asako Takakura - this time against the United States.

With next year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup on the horizon, Takakura has used the tournament to expose a number of new faces to high-level international football, with goalkeeper Sakiko Ikeda and defenders Nana Ichise and Miho Manya among those to benefit.

Denied by a late Brazilian equaliser on Matchday One, Japan’s high defensive line was punished by Australia’s pace on Sunday, as they slumped to their heaviest defeat against their AFC rivals in over three decades.

Jill Ellis’ United States produced three goals in less than 10 minutes to claim a miracle 4-3 win against Brazil, but their performances so far in the competition have worried a legion of fans accustomed to success on the global stage.

Carli Lloyd – the hat-trick hero of the 5-2 2015 Women’s World Cup final win over the Nadeshiko – is expected to feature after returning to the US starting lineup against Brazil, while Japanese super-sub Yuka Momiki may be rewarded with a starting berth after two goals in as many matches.

The last meeting between the sides finished in a gripping 3-3 draw in Denver last June, with star striker Kumi Yokoyama salvaging an equaliser for Japan deep into stoppage time. 

Photos: AFP

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