Westfield Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams paid tribute to opponents Japan after an enthralling encounter between the two Asian heavyweights ended in a 1-1 draw in Friday evening’s clash at the Amman International Stadium.
Sam Kerr’s late equalizer cancelled out an earlier strike from Mizuko Sakaguchi to confirm a semi-final date with Thailand on Tuesday and the Westfield Matildas’ place at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
The prevailing emotion for Williams after the match was relief at securing safe passage to France next year but the Westfield Matildas custodian was also eager to commend what was a typically captivating contest between two excellent footballing sides.
“It’s such an incredible feeling, we fought long and hard during the game and obviously we have a superstar player in Sam (Kerr) that pulled it out of the bag for us,” she said.
“We’re always their (Japan’s) bogey team and there’ll always be one goal between it, we just know that we’re going out and they’re going out to play our hardest.
“There’s tremendous respect from both sides, they’re wonderful people and players and the same is coming back to us from them – it’s always a pleasure playing against them.”
The pair could very well meet again in the final of the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup should the Westfield Matildas defeat Thailand in Tuesday night’s semi-final.
And although the Westfield Matildas will enter the clash with Thailand buoyed by Kerr’s late equalizer, defender Alanna Kennedy said the side need to improve their efficiency in the final third for the remainder of the competition.
“I thought we could’ve finished the game off early in the first half, we had a few chances and we just didn’t put them away,” she said.
“We put ourselves under a bit of pressure to get a goal back but it’s within us – the never say die attitude we have, I never doubted the girls and Sammy (Kerr) got one away for us.
“It’s crazy the emotions you go through: we went from being ok with the score and then under a bit of pressure and a bit frustrated with the goal, to being on top of the world so I’m very happy.”
The Westfield Matildas take on Thailand in Tuesday evening‘s semi-final with kick off time at 11:45pm AEST.