Matildas book a spot in the 2015 World Cup

The Matildas have qualified for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada and booked a spot in the 2014 Women's Asian Cup semi-finals following a 2-0 win over Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh on Sunday night.

Australia went in to the game only needing a draw to book a spot in next year's World Cup and the Asian Cup semi-finals but a first-half own-goal from Vietnam and a late strike from Katrina Gorry saw them take all three points. 

An indirect free-kick was the source of the goal with Emily Van Egmond's strike bundled over the line by the Vietnamese defence. 

In torrential conditions the Matilda's then went in search for a second goal to kill off the game but the Vietnam goalkeeper pulled off a number of crucial saves to keep the score 1-0.

Van Egmond, Lisa De Vanna and Kate Gill all came close for the Matilda's before Gorry scored a stunning goal from distance to guarantee victory.

Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic was justifiably proud of his players but declared the Matildas would have to raise their game considerably on tonight’s performance if they are to be a contender to win the tournament.

“It wasn’t easy tonight and they still came away with a win,” Stajcic said.

“It was a hard fought win, they’ve qualified for the World Cup and now we’ve really got to focus on improving our football so we can be a threat at that World Cup next year.”

“I thought they (Vietnam) knocked three or four balls over the top that we didn’t deal with well at all, so it’s certainly an area we need to improve on.

“The conditions didn’t help us but some of the decision making at the back wasn’t great either. There were some good passages of play but certainly some of the execution and decision making and creativity in that front third wasn’t the best tonight and I think if we’re going to be a threat that has to improve.”

“The three objectives coming in were to qualify for the World Cup, win the Asian Cup and improving our football. I thought the first game (against Japan) was good, I thought the second game and tonight there were just small passages of play that were good so there is plenty of room for improvement going into the Semi Final.”

It was always going to be a difficult task for the Matildas overcoming the host nation who were trying to qualify for their first ever World Cup in front of a boisterous home crowd. And for large parts of the game the Matildas lacked the cutting edge and clinical finishing to unlock a disciplined Vietnam defensive unit.

Lisa De Vanna spotted Michelle Heyman lurking unmarked at the back post inside five minutes but she could not direct her header on target and that was the story for much of the opening half for the Matildas as Emily van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy and Clare Polkinghorne all could have possibly broken through if not wayward with their opportunities.

Tuyet Dung flashed a shot a metre over the bar to show the hosts were not intimidated by the defending champions and they created some anxious moments for the Australians, the Matildas just managing to clear the ball after a mad scramble in their penalty area.

It was seemingly going to take a moment of individual brilliance to break the deadlock and Caitlin Foord almost provided it in the 38th minute with a trademark darting run inside, playing a one-two with Heyman before somehow putting her eventual shot into the side netting from close range.

Then in the 42nd minute the Matildas were given a helping hand of such when they were awarded an indirect free kick 10 metres out after the referee penalised the Vietnamese for a deliberate back pass despite questions over whether the preceding touch was a reflex rather than an intentional one.

But the Matildas kindly accepted the invitation, van Egmond drilling the ball low and hard and it eventually found its way across the goal line in a crowd of bodies, the last touch credited to Vietnam captain Le Thi Thuong.

Looking to land the knockout blow van Egmond brought a superb diving save from Vietnamese keeper Tuyet May that was heading for the bottom corner before the rain began to tumble.

Tameka Butt’s first start of the tournament lasted 61 minutes before she was replaced by Samantha Kerr and soon after De Vanna thought she had manufactured a second goal, her shot taking a deflection and skidding just wide of the post.

Vietnam were relying heavily on their number 11, Nguyen Thi Nguyet, as their main attacking avenue and her pace and persistence nearly forced a calamity in the Australian penalty area in the 82nd minute as the Matildas defence were in a panic, doing just enough to prevent the ball from going over the goal line.

But Gorry put rest to any doubt of the result with an unstoppable missile from just outside the penalty area in the final minute of regulation time to book the Matildas’ place in the semi-final and their ticket to Canada next year.

The Westfield Matildas now await the result of Korea Republic and China P.R. on Monday night to determine their semi-final opponents, which will decide who finishes top of Group B.

The semi-finals will be played on Thursday.

Vietnam 0
Westfield Matildas 2 (Thuong 42’ (og), Gorry 90’)
Referee: Pannipar Kamnueng (Thailand)
Crowd: 3,000 @ Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh