The Westfield Matildas head into their final group game of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup against hosts Vietnam on Sunday.
The Westfield Matildas head into their final group game of the AFC Women-s Asian Cup against host nation Vietnam tomorrow (Sunday) night knowing automatic qualification for next year-s FIFA Women-s World Cup hinges on the result.
Following a draw and a win from their opening two encounters, the Westfield Matildas sit second of Group A on goal difference behind World Champions Japan and a point ahead of third placed Vietnam.
With the top two teams from Group A and Group B automatically booking their spot at Canada 2015 while also progressing to the Semi Finals of this tournament, a win or a draw against Vietnam would guarantee the Westfield Matildas a top two finish.
On the flipside, a loss would condemn Australia to third spot, meaning they would miss the Semi Finals and have to play in a 5th/6th play-off against the third ranked team in Group B to fight it out for the last remaining World Cup spot.
Arriving at the tournament as the defending champions and with high expectations coming into the competition, finishing outside the top two at the end of the Group Stage is not something Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic is considering or contemplating.
But unlike Group B where Korea Republic and China P.R. are the two clear standout teams and are as good as certain to progress, Stajcic-s charges find themselves facing a much tougher proposition, up against a Vietnam side playing on home soil and attempting to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.
Under Chinese coach Chen Yun Fa, the Vietnamese were impressive in beating Jordan in their opening match and then managed to hold Japan at bay for much of the first half before succumbing to the quality of the World Champions after the break.
“They (Vietnam) are disciplined, particularly in defence, they-ve got no shortage of motivation with what-s at stake and on top of all of that they need to win, so we-ve got be alert, ensure we come in with the right attitude and make sure we execute our strategies to break them down while also staying composed and switched on defensively,” Stajcic said.
“If we do this I-m sure the flow of the game will go our way.”
Despite the Westfield Matildas winning both of the two previous meetings between the teams, the last of which was at the AFC Women-s Asian Cup four years ago, Stajcic knows Vietnam are certain to rise to the occasion in front of a parochial home crowd, and he plans to draw on the energy and atmosphere to bring the best out of his players.
“It will be a very tough game. They played very well against Jordan and we-ll definitely have to improve on our performance against Jordan,” Stajcic said.
“I hope there-s a big crowd here, it usually motivates both teams when there-s a big crowd, so the more people that come the better and I encourage as big a crowd as we can to get to the game. I-m sure it will be a good spectacle.”
After making ten changes to the starting line-up in the 3-1 win over Jordan, Stajcic is tossing up his options with which personnel he uses from the opening whistle against Vietnam. Six players that figured in the opening game against Japan were rested for the Jordan encounter, while 2013/14 Julie Dolan Medallist Tameka Butt was a late withdrawal after receiving a knock to her troublesome ankle at training a day before the game.
Butt managed to get through today-s session without any discomfort but whether she is thrust straight into the starting XI will likely come down to how confident she feels about her ankle and whether Stajcic believes she can get through enough of the game.
One thing that is for certain is that whichever players run out onto Thong Nhat Stadium in the green and gold on Sunday night will all be fully aware of what is on the line.
Kick-Off is at 10.15pm AEST and the match can be seen LIVE and exclusive on Fox Sports 2 and 2HD.
The other Group A fixture between Japan and Jordan will kick-off simultaneously down the road at Binh Duong Stadium.
Vietnam v Westfield Matildas Sunday 18 May 2014 Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh Kick-Off: 7.15pm local time (10.15pm AEST)
LIVE & exclusive on Fox Sports 2 and 2HD
Twitter: twitter.com/TheMatildas #VIEvAUS
Westfield Matildas squad: 1.Brianna DAVEY (gk), 2.Teigen ALLEN, 3.Kim CARROLL, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Leena KHAMIS, 7.Hayley RASO, 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD, 10.Emily VAN EGMOND, 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 12.Kate GILL, 13.Tameka BUTT, 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 15.Nicola BOLGER, 16.Stephanie CATLEY, 17.Teresa POLIAS, 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 19.Katrina GORRY, 20.Samantha KERR, 21.Casey DUMONT (gk), 22.Ashleigh SYKES, 23.Michelle HEYMAN, 24.Emma CHECKER
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD Australia 2; Vietnam 0; Draws 0
Previous Meetings 19-May-2010 - Australia won 2-0 in Chengdu (AFC Women-s Cup - Group Stage) 20-Oct-2008 - Australia won 1-0 in Ho Chi Minh (ASEAN Championship - Final)