McCallum's Late Goal Earns Victory over Japan

Collette McCallum has etched her name in Australian football history, after scoring a late goal and helping the Qantas Young Matildas to become the first Australian team to qualify for a FIFA World Championship event through the Asian Football Confederation.

Picture: Jenna Tristram celebrates her equalising goal with Sally Shipard and Sasha McDonnell. Courtesy of AFC/Galvin Tan

"Guus isn't the only one going to Russia," was the light-hearted quip by an obviously delighted Qantas Young Matildas coach Alistair Edwards, after watching his team grab the third AFC spot at the FIFA U-20 Women-s World Championship finals in Russia later this year.

His comment was in reference to current Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink taking charge of the Russian national team (officially announced last week), once his commitments with Australia are finished at the World Cup, while Edwards and his team will be competing in Russia at the 3rd edition of the FIFA tournament.    Australia got through thanks to a performance that Hiddink himself might like to see from the Socceroos at the World Cup in June, one of composure and patience. Twice they fell behind to a very strong and talented Japan side in their 3rd/4th place play-off match in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, only to come back each time and eventually win the match.

With scores locked at 2-2 with just minutes remaining, Collette McCallum etched her name into Australian football history, by scoring the winning goal and helping the Qantas Young Matildas to become the first Australian team to qualify for a FIFA World Championship event through the Asian Football Confederation.

Edwards acknowledged the girls spirit and ability not to give up, when it looked like the game would get away from them.

"It was a game of high quality,” said Edwards. “We displayed a balance of the traditional fighting spirit that we Aussies are renowned for, combined with some outstanding passages of technical football."   "It-s a credit to this group of players to come from behind twice and then overpower a Japanese side widely acknowledged as the fittest and best side in the tournament."   "The performance capped off a memorable tournament for us, where, as the first Australian team to play in and AFC finals tournament, we have definitely made a lasting positive impression."

Australia will join AFC Champions China, whom Australia defeated in the preliminary rounds, and DPR Korea as the three Asia representatives in Russia next September.

The game itself was a ding-dong affair, with the intent on attacking football evident from the start, when Australian striker Sasha McDonnell had a shot go just across the face of goal in the 1st minute.

After having the better of the early exchanges, Australia then fell behind in the 11th minute, when Sakaguchi finished from in front after a cross from the left.

However the lead did not last long, when McDonnell led a quick break, feeding the ball out to Leah Blayney on the right. Blayney then laid a great out to the left for a charging Leena Khamis, who rounded the keeper and cut inside before tapping home into an open goal.

The scores remained at one apiece till the break, with both teams having chances in what was a fairly even first half.

Nine minutes into the second half, Japan again took the lead through their star striker Nagasato, who finished superbly with a diving header from 6 yards out.

Australia almost leveled straight away with chances falling to McCallum and McDonnell, but they had to wait until the 75th minute, when McDonnell-s cross was tapped back by Blayney for substitute Jenna Tristram, whose shot from 8 metres gave the Japanese keeper no chance.

Tristram-s goal set up a tantalising finish, with both teams going for the winner rather than playing for extra time and it was McCallum who provided the decisive blow in the 88th minute.

Again it was McDonnell who was at the heart of the goal, racing down the right flank and cutting in and crossing, which went through untouched by all, finding McCallum at the left corner of the 6-yard box and she calmly hit here shot back across the keeper and inside the far post. Edwards though was quick to sympathise with his Japanese counterpart. “While I-m very happy for Australia, I am also sad for the Japanese team because, in my view, Japan has been the best team in this tournament,” Edwards told the official tournament site. “We have qualified for the finals twice before as a member of the Oceania federation,” said Edwards. “But this time we are going as an Asian team and I can tell you that our players are proud to represent Asia in this competition and we will do our best for the continent.”

The FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship will be held in Russia August 17 - September 3 with the drawto be conducted on Saturday.  Australia will join China, DPR Korea, USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, host nation Russia plus two African qualifiers in the 16-nation tournament.

AFC U-19 Women's Championships Malaysia 2006

Tuesday 18 April - 5.00pm kick-off Kuala Lumpur Stadium, Cheras  Conditions: 30oC, overcast to fine, humid, pitch damp (had been heavy rain earlier in day)   Australia 3 (Leena Khamis 19-, Jenna Tristram 75-, Collette McCallum 88-) Japan 2

Australian line-up: Lydia Williams (gk); Clare Polkinghorne, Kim Carroll, Olivia Kennedy, Sally Shipard (c), Sasha McDonnell, Kylie Ledbrook, Collette McCallum, Leena Khamis (Jenna Tristram 50-), Nicole Somi (Danielle Brogan h/t), Leah Blayney Subs Not used: Servet Uzunlar, Kylie Logue (gk), Caitlin Cooper, Victoria Balomenos, Amy Jackson, Grace Gill, Renee Cartwright

Cautions: Blayney (63-)