21/04/2024

The Young Matildas in action during their group stage game against the host nation Uzbekistan. Photo supplied by Football Australia.

After two wins from two, the Young Matildas needed to avoid a seven goal defeat in order to advance to the knockout stages of the AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup, which also doubles as U-20 Women’s World Cup qualifying.

Playing in rainy conditions in Tashkent, the Aussies would dominate possession and the first half, with captain Jessika Nash scoring the opener in the 20th minute.

Zara Kruger would double the lead in the 40th minute, sending the side into half-time with a 2-0 lead and one hand on advancing into the knockout stages.

With three substitutions at half-time, Leah Blayney clearly had one eye on the knockout stages, especially with South Korea up 6-0 over Uzbekistan in the other group game.

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The Aussies continued to push for a third, but also doing a great job at managing the game.

Claudia Cicco would be rewarded with her first goal of the tournament to make it 3-0 for the Young Matildas in the 81st minute.

The 3-0 victory marked just the second time the Young Matildas had qualified for the U-20 Women’s World Cup through Asia, having last happened in 2006.

Leah Blayney was part of that squad in 2006, and she has now coached the side to the World Cup, bringing about a full circle moment.

The Aussies will face the runner up of Group B in their semi-final match at the Asian Cup on Wednesday March 13.

For the Young Matildas, it will mark their second consecutive U-20 Women’s World Cup, and fifth overall after participating in the 2022 edition in Costa Rica.

Despite not qualifying for the 2022 edition, which was originally scheduled for 2020, the Young Matildas were nominated by the AFC for the tournament after the withdrawal of North Korea.

The Young Matildas were eliminated in the group stage, winning 3-1 over the hosts Costa Rica in their opening game, before 2-0 and 3-0 defeats saw them eliminated.

The U-20 Women’s World Cup will begin on August 31.

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