08 March 2016
Matildas reach Rio after Olympic qualifying victory over North Korea DPR Korea 1-2 Australia
Michelle Heyman’s fine finish put the Matildas 1-0 up in their Olympic qualifier against North Korea in Osaka.
Needing just a point to secure passage to Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games, the Matildas did more than enough with a famous 2-1 victory over a sometimes overly-physical North Korea in Osaka.
Michelle Heyman’s well-taken first-half goal and a beautifully crafted Katrina Gorry strike sealed the win – Australia’s fourth in as many games in this qualifying tournament – and sent the Matildas to their first Olympics since Athens in 2004.
After Heyman slotted home in the 18th minute, Kim Su-Gyong crashed in a superb 78th minute equaliser to raise tension levels on the Australian bench, but when Caitlin Foord laid the ball off to Gorry just five minutes later, a knife-edge finale was averted.
Having now dispatched with two of Fifa’s top six ranked sides over the past week – world No4 and hosts Japan has already been accounted for – the Matildas can head to Brazil in August justifiably full of confidence.
With Vietnam and South Korea also featuring on the list of vanquished opponents in Japan, Wednesday’s final match against China, who will join the Matildas in Rio, is now a dead rubber.
Australia coach Alen Stajcic made two changes to the side which defeated South Korea on Friday with co-captain Lisa De Vanna surprisingly left on the bench, while Foord and Heyman started.
The pair combined for a crucial early goal on 18 minutes as Foord made a typically pacy run down the flank, before pulling the ball back for striker Heyman to slot home from inside the penalty box.
A desperate North Korea, who needed a win to avoid Olympic Games elimination, turned up the heat in the latter stages of the first half, and Kim Un Ju should have equalised before the break only to sky her close-range effort over the bar.
North Korean frustrations threatened to boil over on several occasions and the Asian side could consider themselves fortunate to have ended the game with a full compliment after an act of retribution on Chloe Logarzo by Kim Nam Hui and Ra Un Sim’s wild, studs-up challenge on goalkeeper Lydia Williams weren’t dealt with as sternly as perhaps they should have been.
Perhaps the key moment of the match came from Williams who made a remarkable block on the goal-line as Kim Yun Mi fired in a close-range volley 10 minutes into the second half.
North Korea’s play became less cohesive as their desperation grew and Gorry and Foord had chances to extend the advantage. That profligacy proved costly as substitute Kim Su Gyong fired in a stunner with 12 minutes remaining.
However, parity only lasted for five minutes as Gorry scored what proved to be the match winner and the victory, celebrated enthusiastically at full-time, confirms what many suspected after their run to the quarter-finals in last year’s World Cup – that the Matildas can hold their own with some of the best sides in the world.