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.
Preview – Play-off first leg: Australia vs Vietnam
Newcastle: Australia head coach Ante Milicic has urged his side to seek continuous improvement ahead of Friday’s opening leg of the AFC Women’s Olympic qualifying play-off against Vietnam at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Group winners in last month’s Final Round, and strong favourites to seal a trip to a second successive Olympic Games in the week ahead, Australia will be aiming to give themselves a sizeable lead ahead of Wednesday’s return leg in Quang Ninh.
Tokyo 2020: Catley aiming to take club dominance to international stage
Newcastle: Fresh from winning silverware on the domestic front, full-back Steph Catley is hoping to keep the good times rolling when Australia face Vietnam in the first leg of their AFC Women’s Olympic qualifying play-off at the McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.
One of six Melbourne City players in the current Matildas squad, Catley has been a regular contributor to the club’s dominant Australian W-League campaign, with the team winning 12 consecutive matches to easily become league Premiers, with the Championship trophy still up for grabs.
With such momentum behind her, and so many of her club teammates also playing key roles in the national team, Catley believes Melbourne City’s dream run can be a valuable asset to a Matildas outfit hoping to secure a second successive Olympic appearance.
Newcastle: Vietnamese midfielder Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung believes her side must unite as one to remain competitive with a star-studded Australia in the final play-off round of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Drawn against the likes of Chelsea’s Sam Kerr and Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord, Vietnam are clear outsiders in the two-legged play-off, which begins in Newcastle on Friday, with the winners to advance to July’s Tokyo 2020 women’s football tournament.
The Matildas have the more celebrated players, the stronger international pedigree, and, for Friday’s first leg, home ground advantage, but while Vietnam – ranked 25 places behind Australia at 32nd in the world – face an uphill battle, Dung said the team’s strength lies in its unity.
Kuala Lumpur: Four teams remain in the race to join hosts Japan as Asian representatives in this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, with Australia to face Vietnam and Korea Republic to meet China PR in the final play-off round.
As the long and winding road to Tokyo 2020 nears the finish line, the-AFC.com takes a look at some of the key numbers from the previous round of Qualifiers.
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.