HCM CITY (VNS) — Iwashimizu Azusa's first half-winning goal landed Japan its first Asian Cup win.
The narrow but convincing 1-0 victory over Australia ended the Asian Football Confederation Women's Asian Cup, which wrapped up last night at Thong Nhat Stadium in HCM City.
Azusa scored the only goal of the match after 29 minutes as she sent a loose ball flying into the goal.
Winning the title meant that the World Cup holders not only ended their jinx at the continental competition, where they had lost the final four times, but also proved that they were ready to defend the title at the World Cup next year.
"I have the best feeling at the moment. The win means a lot more than being a champion today because we have a lot of young players in our teams," Japan's captain Miyama Aya said.
Japan's coach, Sasaki Norio, said, "I played well in the first half and scored the early goal that gave us mental strength in the second half and created more chances as well. We came here to win the tournament and we did it and will develop the team from here to compete in the World Cup."
Australia's first loss at the tournament means that the defending champions failed to defend the title they won four years ago in China.
"Japan was fantastic today and they kept the ball and made passes very well today and created chances. We also had two and three good chances but could not take them," Australia's coach, Alen Stajcic, said.
"Our players were good in terms of fitness but I will need to work on them technically as well as do better on executions if we are to challenge other big teams as well as get good results at the World Cup next year," he added.
In the earlier third-place play-off, China overcame South Korea 2-1 thanks to a goal from Park Eun-sun and Yang Li, who headed home a corner in the last minute.
"I congratulated my players for their efforts in the match. It was a tough match today. After the grueling semi-final match against Japan, it's difficult for us to play well against such a strong team as South Korea. But our players did a very good job physically and mentally. My team will improve even more in the future," China's coach, Hao Wei, said.
"It's good to finish third at the continent's biggest competition and gives us a lot of motivation for Chinese women's football but we have a long-term goal of getting good results at the World Cup next year," Hao added.
Yoon Duk-yoe congratulated China for a third-place finish at the tournament and said that his players approached the world-level football.
"I congratulated China for securing a third place and thanked all my players for their efforts," South Korea's coach, Yoon Duk-yeo, said. "Our players showed that they can compete against Asian powerhouses. We played China twice and Australia once and all those games are equal." — VNS