Newcastle: The youngest footballer from any nation to appear at Rio 2016, Ellie Carpenter is now a key cog in a well-oiled Australian machine, and 90 minutes away from a second taste of the Olympic Games after a resounding 5-0 win over Vietnam on Friday.
The on-loan Melbourne City star delivered another standout performance, causing havoc down the right flank and delivering the assist for Sam Kerr’s bullet header, which got the scoring underway in the 10th minute.
The feel-good story when Australia’s Olympic squad was announced four years ago, Carpenter – still only 19 – has established herself as one of the world’s best young players, starring for club and country as an ultra-aggressive full-back.
Australia's Milicic taking nothing for granted despite big win
Newcastle: Australia head coach Ante Milicic is eager for his side to deliver another professional performance in the second leg of their Olympic qualifying play-off against Vietnam, after they stormed to a 5-0 win in the opening match on Friday.
A Matildas return to the Olympic stage now appears a mere formality after a Sam Kerr brace and goals from Chloe Logarzo, Emily van Egmond and Clare Polkinghorne took the seventh-ranked Australians to a one-sided victory at McDonald Jones Stadium.
But while a Vietnamese recovery appears distinctly unlikely, Milicic – who has years of experience in Asian football, and whose men’s U-23 national team was defeated by Vietnam in 2018 – is aware that away trips on the continent are not always as straightforward as they seem, and urged his side to remain focused.
Our youngsters will learn from this, says Vietnam's Chung
Newcastle: Mai Duc Chung hopes his young squad will benefit from their exposure to a top-class Australian side, after Vietnam’s hopes of reaching a first ever Olympic football tournament suffered a five-goal blow at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.
At no stage did Vietnam give up the fight in the 5-0 first leg defeat, but the Southeast Asian champions were outclassed by Ante Milicic’s outfit, which boasts players with years of experience at the highest levels of the women’s game.
Tokyo 2020 - Play-off first leg: Australia 5-0 Vietnam
Newcastle: Australia moved to within touching distance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a dominant 5-0 win in the first leg of their qualifying Play-off against Vietnam at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.
Sam Kerr became the Matildas joint all-time second highest scorer with a goal in each half, with Chloe Logarzo, Emily van Egmond and Clare Polkinghorne also getting on the scoresheet in a comprehensive display.
Vietnam’s defeat was an improvement on the 8-0 loss they suffered in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, but the odds of the SEA Games gold medallists advancing to a first ever Olympics appear implausibly slim ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg in Quang Ninh.
Orlando: Olympic hosts Japan suffered their first defeat since the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, losing 3-1 to Spain in their opening SheBelieves Cup fixture on Thursday.
Nadeshiko star Mana Iwabuchi scored a sensational volley to level the match just before half-time, but two second half goals from Spanish youngster Lucia Garcia sealed the match and ended Japan’s five-game winning streak.
Japan will look to bounce back in their second match against England on Sunday, before facing the World Number One United States in their final match on Wednesday.
In Thursday’s other match, goals from Christen Press and Carli Lloyd helped the United States to defeat England 2-0.
Australia on a different level, says Vietnam’s Thuy
Newcastle: Vietnam midfielder Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy said her side are dealing with a steep learning curve in their AFC Women’s Olympic qualifying play-off against world number seven Australia.
The Southeast Asian champions were swept aside by a 5-0 margin in the opening leg of the tie at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday, leaving them a near-impossible task in the home leg at Cam Pha Stadium.
Takakura: I'd be lying if I said there was no pressure
Tokyo: Asako Takakura will be hoping she has a stay to remember in her nation’s capital. As coach of the Nadeshiko, hosts at Tokyo 2020, her goal will be to reach the gold medal match at the Olympic Stadium on 7 August.
After a tough learning curve for a young squad at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, Takakura’s troops have their focus firmly on this year’s Olympics.
FIFA.com sat down with the former midfielder and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup-winning coach to discuss last year’s “disappointing” World Cup, and welcoming the world to Japan for Tokyo 2020.