Matildas finish fourth at Asian Cup

Australia have finished in fourth spot at the 2008 AFC Women's Asian Cup after a 3-0 defeat against world number ten Japan in the third place play-off match tonight at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Australia have finished in fourth spot at the 2008 AFC Women's Asian Cup after a 3-0 defeat against world number ten Japan in the third place play-off match tonight at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Matildas commenced in bright fashion with midfielder Collette McCallum hitting the post with a free kick, before Japan scored the only goal of the half moments later through a 16th minute strike from Youki Nagasato.

Australia stayed in the game until the last ten minutes when they were deflated by two stunning goals in a match once again played in high humidity. Firstly Aya Miyama struck with a 30 metre free kick, then with with two minutes to go Japanese playmaker Homare Sawa hit a first time effort from the edge of the penalty area.

"Japan were fair winners tonight and thoroughly deserved their win," said Matildas coach Tom Sermanni. "We did superbly well in the first 20 minutes but conceded the first goal which deflated us with the first goal proving critical throughout this tournament."

"We have achieved out initial goal which was to qualify for the semi finals, and the tournament has also provided us with an opportunity to blood some young players in tough international competition. However leaving aside the disrupted preparation, we have performed below par in a number of areas and we will work hard to rectify that."

"This tournament has shown us the level we need to reach in Asia which is very strong and continually improving. This tournament has also shown the level of conditioning that is required to compete in these conditions and some individuals within the group have learnt that a lack of preparation and fitness will be found out at this level."

Australia started strongly with striker Lisa De Vanna and midfielder Heather Garriock who played in a more advanced and central midfield role constantly linking well and causing early problems.

Early on Amy Chapman broke free down the right and her excellent cross was met on the fly by Kate Gill who headed narrowly over.

Then came McCallum's free kick from a near identical spot to that which she famously scored from against Canada at last year's World Cup, with the ball lifted over the wall but striking the near post.

Japan's opening goal came out of the blue with a ball played over the top of the defence by Yukari Kinga and finished by Nagasato who beat the onrushing Melissa Barbieri to the ball.

Both teams created a number of half chances but the best saw Nagasato get goalside of the defence in the dying minutes of the half only to see her shot blocked by Barbieri.

Japan started the second half much like Australia did the first playing with a high tempo and causing problems around the penalty area for the Australian defence. Firstly Mizuho Sakaguchi blazed narrowly over after a short corner was knocked in, then Miyama fired hard and low from 12 yards but the ball was superbly held by Barbieri.

The Matildas though fought back with typical tenacity and De Vanna firstly forced a save then set up Chapman whose well hit shot had to be parried around the post by the Japanese custodian.

Australia were the walking wounded with tenacious midfielder Lauren Colthorpe playing with a suspected broken nose after a first half clash, and Garriock suffering from a hip complaint.

Captain Cheryl Salisbury, short on match fitness having missed the last two matches, was pushed into the front line in the second half.

Perth 16-year-old Ella Mastrantonio came into the fray for the final 15 minutes making her senior team debut in the process.

DPR Korea came from behind in the final to claim their third title in four attempts with a 2-1 win over China. DPR Korea forward Ri Kum Suk was the tournament's highest goalscorer while Japan maestro Homare Sawa was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

The Matildas will now travel to South Korea for the prestigious Peace Cup where they have been drawn against USA, Italy and Brazil with their first match June 15.

Match Details:-

Australia 0

Japan 3 (Youki Nagasato 16', Aya Miyama 79', Homare Sawa 88')

Australian line-up: Melissa Barbieri (gk); Kim Carroll (Ellyse Perry 58'), Cheryl Salisbury, Clare Polkinghorne, Karla Reuter, Amy Chapman, Lauren Colthorpe, Collette McCallum (Ella Mastrantonio 75'), Heather Garriock, Lisa De Vanna, Kate Gill (Kate McShea 68').

Cautions: Garriock 86', Polkinghorne 89'

Referee: Eun Ah Hong (South Korea)