It is a debate that has raged in silence for nearly half a century. Who should be recognised as the first ever Australian women’s national team?
Australia’s women’s football team locked up qualification for the Tokyo Olympic Games with an at-times shaky win over an outclassed Vietnam, in a match played in bizarre circumstances on Wednesday (AEDT).
The Matildas backed up their 5-0 first-leg victory in Newcastle with a less convincing 2-1 win in testing conditions in Cam Pha.
Combined with the Olyroos’ qualification in January, Tokyo 2020 will mark the first time Australia will be represented in both Olympic football tournaments since 2004.
Sam Kerr and Hayley Raso netted by the midway point of the first half, but any thoughts of a rout proved misconceived as the home side pulled a goal back early in the second half.
The match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus, and kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes due to a lighting issue.
Events took an even more surreal turn when the lights went out completely after just 60 seconds of play, facilitating another quarter-hour delay.
Australia coach Ante Milicic showed his intent by naming a full strength team, making just two changes from the side which overpowered the Vietnamese in the first leg in Newcastle. Elise Kellond-Knight came in for Tameka Yallop, and Raso lined up in place of Kyah Simon.
Kerr settled any lingering nerves with an early goal on the quarter-hour mark, having struck the frame of the goal on five minutes. An unmarked Kerr easily side-volleyed home a cross from Steph Catley, with the Matildas’ fullback providing a third assist of the tie.
It was Kerr’s 42nd goal in the green and gold and puts her in outright second as the Matildas leading goalscorer.
Raso doubled the advantage by side-footing into an open goal 11 minutes later after Kerr unselfishly set up the chance with only the goalkeeper to beat.
It could have been worse for the home side by halftime but goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh blocked Chloe Logarzo’s spot-kick, after the Matildas were perhaps generously awarded a penalty for a tug on Caitlin Foord in the dying minutes of the half.
The Matildas struggled for their usual fluency in possession at times but they still managed to hit the post through Foord, while Alanna Kennedy saw her freekick denied by a flying save.
Kennedy, however, was at fault by mis-controlling the ball running back to goal and allowing Vietnam striker Huynh Nhu to coolly lob goalkeeper Lydia Williams from distance on 55 minutes. It was the first goal scored by Vietnam against Australia in the ninth match between the two nations.
Australia were on the back foot for the final ten minutes as Vietnam enjoyed their best period of the two-legged tie. It is a seeking second successive Olympic Games qualification for the Matildas, having featured in three previous Olympic Games overall.