|High stakes: Viet Nam's women's football team take on Thailand in a play-off match today in the Asian Women's Cup, with the winners qualifying for the 2015 World Cup in Canada next year. — File Photo
HCM CITY (VNS) — History beckons as Viet Nam's women's football team take on Thailand in a play-off match today in the Asian Women's Cup, with the winners qualifying for the 2015 World Cup in Canada next year.
No team from Southeast Asia have ever qualified for the World Cup, which will see the number of teams increase to 24, giving Asia five slots from the earlier three.
Japan, China, Australia and South Korean have already taken the first four places by qualifying for the semi-finals of the tournament being played in HCM City.
Viet Nam and Thailand finished third in their respective groups.
Viet Nam beat Jordan but then lost to Japan and Australia, while Thailand lost to China and South Korea before labouring to a win over Myanmar.
"Our players are ready for the play-off against Thailand and I think both teams share an equal chance of winning the game," Viet Nam's Chinese coach Chen Yun Fa told a pre-match press conference.
"But I hope that the advantage of playing at home in front of home fans will help Viet Nam achieve the desired result."
The Thais are also very confident and said they would go all out for a win and a ticket to the World Cup.
"It's a 50-50 chance for both Viet Nam and Thailand," Thai coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian said.
Thailand have improved their record against Viet Nam in recent years after being rolled over for long.
In fact, in their last encounter in a major tournament, they edged out Viet Nam 2-1 to take the Southeast Asian Games title in Myanmar last December.
Evenly matched in semis
There were no surprises this year as the four strongest teams qualified for the semi-finals, which promise close and fascinating games tomorrow at Thong Nhat Stadium.
World champions Japan, who topped Group A with a dazzling attacking brand of football, scoring 13 goals in two wins and a draw, will face eight-time Asian champions China, who were also unbeaten.
But Japan will go into the match with a psychological advantage since they dominated in recent years, beating China on every occasion they met and going on to far bigger things like a World Cup crown.
Not surprisingly China are cautious and Japan are confident.
"We watched Japan's matches in the group stage and made some analyses Chinese coach Hao Wei said.
"We hope to perform better than them tomorrow and get as good a result as possible."
Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki said, "It will be a tough match tomorrow because China have many talented players as they showed in the match against South Korea, but we will win and advance to the final."
Defending champions Australia, who had a modest goal-scoring record with seven goals and went through as runners-up of Group A, take on South Korea, who topped Group B with some good performances and 16 goals.
But the two coaches downplayed the results of the group stage, saying they are irrelevant to the match tomorrow.
"Australia are a very strong team and we will prepare well and try our best to play a good match against them," Yoon Duk Yeok, South Korea's coach, said.
Australian honcho Alen Stajcic was wary of South Korea and expected a tough match, but was not too concerned about his team's goal-scoring ability.
"It can be extremely tough because South Korea is a very good team technically and have a lot of good players.
"So we would try hard and hopefully produce some good attacking football."
Both teams have a 50-50 chance, he said. — VNS