Written by the Football Federation Australia
The Qantas Matildas have suffered a 1-0 loss to Japan in their final international match for 2006 played today at the Fukuda-Denshi Arena in Tokyo.
A goal six minutes into the second half from Shinobu Ohno was all that separated the teams in a match played in extremely wet conditions.
The match was a free-flowing contest despite the soaked pitch, with a number of goalscoring opportunities at either end.
The Qantas Matildas appeared likely to take the lead after 17 minutes when Rhian Davies cross was headed onto the crossbar by Caitlin Munoz, with Sarah Walsh’s follow up attempt also striking the crossbar.
There were further goalscoring opportunities for Joanne Peters and captain Cheryl Salisbury before the interval however both attempts flew over the goal.
Japan broke the deadlock when Yuki Nagasato broke down the right flank and provided a ball for Ohno, who cut back inside and slotted a low shot from 15 metres past substitute goalkeeper Emma Wirkus.
Young striker Sasha McDonnell appeared likely to score on debut but her header from a Heather Garriock cross was well saved by the Japanese goalkeeper.
At the other end Wirkus also impressed with a spectacular save from a long range effort late in the match to deny Japan.
"I’m quite pleased with the performance of the team especially considering the timing of the match and the relative build-up of the two teams," said Qantas Matildas coach Tom Sermanni.
"We possibly had the better of the goalscoring opportunities, certainly in the first half, and we again will take a number of positives from the match.
"Japan are building for a very important month ahead while our focus since July has been a little more experimental ahead of the commencement of our Olympic qualifying campaign in February."
The Qantas Matildas last met Japan in the semi final of July’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Adelaide with Australia’s 2-0 win ensuring qualification for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Japan, who finished fourth at the tournament, will shortly participate in the 2006 Asian Games and next month will play-off against the third-ranked CONCACAF nation, with the winner to qualify for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Qantas Matildas will commence their 2008 Olympic qualifying campaign in February with Australia drawn alongside Chinese Taipei, Myanmar and Uzbekistan in the first stage of qualifying. Should they finish top two in the group the team will progress to the final stage of qualifying and another four team group where DPR Korea await as a seeded team. The final stage of qualifying will be held between April and August with only the top team to progress to the 2008 Olympic Games.
The 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup is scheduled for September 10-30 in China