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Stirring win sees Aussies earn Rio qualification

8 March 2016

FOOTBALL: Australia have booked a spot at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 after a stirring 2-1 win over the world ranked 6th North Korea on Monday night.

With a draw or a win enough to book their passage to Rio, the Australians made it four wins from four in qualification ahead of their final game on Wednesday.  

Heading into the game needing a draw or a win to qualify for Rio, Michelle Heyman gave the Westfield Matildas a 1-0 lead before Kim Su Gyong equalised for North Korea to set up a tense finale.

But in the 84th minute Katrina Gorry struck to put the result beyond doubt to make it four straight victories for the Matildas in the tournament and see an Australian football team feature in the Olympic arena for the first time in 12 years.

In a game the Aussies needed a draw or win to qualify, Stajcic promoted Heyman and Caitlin Foord to the starting line-up as he opted to begin match winners Lisa De Vanna and Kyah Simon on the bench.

The decision paid off in spades with Heyman scoring and Foord putting in an exceptional performance. But Foord was not alone with every player in a Matildas shirt standing tall when it mattered, goalkeeper Lydia Williams also putting in a stellar display between the posts.

Knowing what hinged on the result, the Westfield Matildas found themselves under some early heat from North Korea who had to win to keep their Olympic dreams alive, Kim Yun Mi testing Williams with a sharp effort after 10 minutes.

Then in the 18th minute Australia stung North Korea with a killer sucker punch that started and ended with Heyman. The striker produced a delicate flick on in Foord’s path before positioning herself to receive the winger’s cutback and then burying her first time shot into the back of the net.

The goal composed the Matildas as they began to settle and find their groove in a willing and often spiteful affair that saw four yellow cards handed out in the opening 45 minutes.

North Korea continued to threaten and some wayward shooting coupled by more quality goalkeeping from Williams kept the Aussies ahead, the stopper producing a stunning save in the 55th minute to deny Kim Yun Mi.

De Vanna replaced the tireless Chloe Logarzo in the 56th minute and with 20 minutes remaining Simon came on for Heyman as Stajcic looked to stretch a wearying North Korea defence.

The duo’s introduction almost had an immediate impact as De Vanna found Simon wide before she sent a cross in for Gorry but the keeper was alert to the danger and blocked the goal bound effort.

As the Aussies edged closer to a prized spot in Rio, DPR Korea’s Kim Su Gyong blasted an unstoppable shot into the top corner to level the scores and set up a tense finish.

But finishing the stronger Gorry ensured there would be no Olympic qualification heartbreak for the Matildas this time around as a build up involving De Vanna, Simon and finally a deft touch from Foord allowed Australia's shortest player on the field to pick her spot and fire her shot inside the post.

There were scenes of jubilation at the final whistle as the Matildas made it four straight wins to cemented a top two spot on the table and book their ticket to Rio.

Australia's final match of the tournament is on Wednesday night against China, the other undefeated team in the tournament who secured the other spot at the Olympics.


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