21/04/2024

The Young Matildas side during their game against South Korea at the U20 Women's Asian Cup. Photo supplied by Football Australia

The U-20 Young Matildas squad could be the first team since 2006 to qualify for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Columbia, by placing within the top four teams in the AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup.

Coach Leah Blayney was in that squad which qualified through Asia in 2006, and Alexia Apostolakis reflected on the idea that she could now qualify for the tournament as coach.

“It would mean a lot to Leah as well, because I think the last time she qualified, she was the one playing it and now she’s coaching,” Apostolakis said, noting the full circle moment.

“[There’s] big pride to be able to say you qualified for a World Cup.”

The Young Matildas squad defeated Uzbekistan, the host nation of U-20 Women’s Asian Cup, 2–0 on Wednesday, adding a second win to their Asian Cup journey after defeating South Korea 2–1 in the opening game.

Naomi Chinnama, who scored the winner in the opening game, said she is really proud of the side.

“They brought their all for the last two matches,” Chinnama said.

“Despite the conditions in the first match, we adjusted well.

“It was nice in the second match to actually be able to apply the principles we learnt from Leah Blayney,” referring to the icy match conditions in their victory over South Korea.

The first goal against Uzbekistan was scored by Melbourne City midfielder, Daniela Galic, within the first five minutes of the match, starting the team off strong, with the Central Coast Mariners Peta Trimis scoring the second during a 1v1 against the goalkeeper, also in the first half.

“The first half we definitely had more momentum and [were] glad to secure the 2 nil lead in the second,” reflected Chinnama.

“This team is so united. Everyone gets along on and off the field [and] we have a lot of depth in the squad.”

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The 2-0 win over Uzbekistan places the squad one win away from qualifying for the Asian Cup semi-finals, which also doubles as qualification for the U-20 Women’s World Cup starting in August.

If the squad avoids a seven-goal defeat against Chinese Taipei, who they play in the final group stage game, they will qualify.

“The key is going to be staying calm and composed,” said Apostolakis ahead of the game.

“Just keep playing how we are playing. We’re in a good place right now.”

Australia could be joining the already qualified countries of Colombia, Austria, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, and the USA in the U-20 Women’s World Cup later this year. 

Ahead of the match against Chinese Taipei, Chinnama says that there are some key aims for the side in preparation for the match.

“Making sure that we’re not dwelling on mistakes [and] being aware of where we can improve and making sure we quickly focus on the next game”, the sides vice-captain said.

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