After announcing herself on the international stage at the last World Cup, Lake Illawarra’s Caitlin Foord is setting her sights on another successful campaign, as the Matildas qualified with a 2-nil win over Vietnam.
Foord - who was named best young player at the 2011 tournament in Germany - and fellow former Illawarra Stingrays star Michelle Heyman both played in Monday morning’s victory, helping Australia to their sixth consecutive World Cup.
The Matildas created a litany of chances, but could only find the net twice courtesy of a comical own goal just before half-time, while a stunning last minute long-range strike from midfielder Katrina Gorry capped qualification in style.
The result also lifted Australia into the semi-finals of the Asian Women’s Cup after finishing second on goal difference in Group A behind world champions Japan who also secured their ticket to next year’s World Cup in Canada with victory over Jordan.
It seemed only a matter of time before Australia would overrun their opponents with Emily Van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy, Heyman and Foord all narrowly failing to find the net.
However despite several impressive patches of play it took an unusual goal to break the deadlock.
A free-kick from close range incorrectly awarded for a deliberate back pass was fired at goal by Van Egmond, and ricocheted along the goalline before Vietnam captain Thi Hoa Nguyen inadvertently knocked the ball into the net.
The heavens opened up after the break making life even more difficult for the attack-minded Matildas against a well-organised Vietnam defence.
Substitute Kate Gill hit the crossbar in the second half but that was the closest the Aussies came until Gorry powered home a sweet 35-metre drive on 90 minutes.
‘‘It was a tough game to play, we had a lot of possession and chances but our execution and creativity in the front third let us down so there is some room for improvement,’’ said Australia coach Alen Stajcic.
‘‘But we are still happy because it was very tough to break a team down like that in monsoonal conditions.’’
Stajcic says they now need to focus on making an impact in the semis and final this week.
Asian champions Australia will face either South Korea or China in Thursday’s Asian Cup semi-final as the Matildas seek to defend the continental crown they won in 2010.
The women’s World Cup will be held in Canada next year.