Osaka: Australia and China may have already secured the crucial top two places at the AFC Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 qualifiers, but top spot is still at stake as the Brazil-bound pair meet at Nagai Stadium on Wednesday.
Australia secured a return to the Olympic Games for the first time since 2004 after maintaining their perfect record in Osaka with a 2-1 win over DPR Korea on Monday.
And the win also confirmed China’s qualification after Bruno Bini’s side had earlier recorded a 1-0 win over Korea Republic.
“Asia is the strongest confederation in women’s football and both ourselves and China head to Rio with strong medal chances,” said Australia coach Alen Stajcic.
“We’ve achieved our first goal of qualification, but that’s just the beginning; we’re viewing this match with China as the next step on our path to an Olympic gold medal.”
Australia currently top the table by two points ahead of also unbeaten China.
“We played against Australia in a tournament in Chongqing last year and they’re a good team, very serious and organised; there’s a big difference between Australia now and three or four years ago,” said coach Bini having led China to a first Olympic Games appearance since hosting the 2008 edition.
“Then, they relied a lot on their physical capacities, but now they have three or four very good players with great technique who have really improved the team.”
Elsewhere, 2012 silver medalists Japan face DPR Korea at Kincho Stadium with Norio Sasaki’s side out to end a disappointing campaign on a high having missed out on qualification for the Olympic Games for the first time since 2000.
“This match now should be viewed as the start of our preparation for the future; we’re not going to Rio, but we have the World Cup and the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, so we have to make sure we do our best in those tournaments,” said Sasaki.
Japan beat Vietnam 6-1 on Monday to claim their first win in Osaka, while DPR Korea’s defeat by Australia was the first suffered by Kim Kwang-min’s side during the six-team tournament.
“This tournament has been a great experience for my players and we’re going to give all our energy and focus in making sure we finish strongly against Japan,” said DPR Korea coach Kim.
Finally, Korea Republic face qualifiers Vietnam with fifth place at stake earlier at Nagai Stadium.
“We haven’t scored many goals at this tournament so far, so that’s our aim in this match, to try and score as many goals as we can,” said Korea Republic coach Yoon Duk-yeo.
Vietnam have lost all four games in Osaka, but were unlucky not to earn a first point earlier in the campaign after conceding in the last minute against DPR Korea, while China needed two second half goals to eventually edge out Mai Duc Chung’s side.
“Our players have earned valuable experience at this competition and we will do our best to end well against Korea Republic,” said the Vietnam coach.
Photo: Lagardère Sports