Thailand lost on the night but won a place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022™ knockout stage following their 2-1 defeat to Australia at Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday.
Results elsewhere in the competition meant that Chaba Kaew simply had to avoid a heavy defeat to advance to the last eight as one of the two best third-placed teams, and they never looked in danger of being eliminated in an impressive defensive display against the tournament’s highest-scoring side.
Goals from Emily van Egmond and Sam Kerr gave Australia all three points, but Thailand had their own moment of joy when Nipawan Panyosuk scored a stunning 93rd-minute consolation to send Miyo Okamoto’s side to the quarter-finals on a high note.
Speaking after the match, Okamoto revealed her satisfaction at her side achieving their first objective in India.
“We accomplished our minimum goal of going to the quarter-finals and I’m happy about that,” she said.
“We prepared for this, and we talked about defending well and never giving up, so in that sense, we did the best that we could.
“We worked really, really hard defensively throughout the match and the goal we scored reflected how hard we worked. It also really lifted our spirits ahead of the knockout, that we were able to express our football in that way.”
Thailand’s reward for navigating the group stage is a meeting with Japan in Navi Mumbai on Sunday, and the two-time defending champions are a team Okamoto knows well.
The 43-year-old is a former assistant of the Japan U-19 women’s national team which became Asian champions in 2017, and from which several of the current senior Nadeshiko squad have been drawn.
She worked under current senior Japan boss Futoshi Ikeda in that period, but Okamoto declared her inside knowledge of her side’s next opponents wouldn’t play a major role in Thailand’s planning.
“Regardless of knowing about their tactics, we prepare ourselves for every single match the same way and we will continue that for the next match as well,” she declared.
While Thailand were satisfied despite the defeat, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson said his side had left Mumbai Football Arena disappointed even after registering their third successive win in India.
The Swedish boss made extensive changes to name a noticeably youthful line-up, but it was the senior players who got the job done in front of goal, with van Egmond netting her fifth of the tournament just before half-time before Kerr came off the bench to score her seventh at India 2022 late on.
But it was the concession of Panyosuk’s late strike which irritated the Australian players, something Gustavsson believes is a good sign ahead of the business end of the tournament.
“I’m happy at how upset the team was after the game,” he revealed. “Not happy that we won the group and won the game, but they were upset about the goal that we conceded in overtime.
“We’ve worked very hard defensively in this group stage, but the players were really upset that we conceded that goal, to not keep that clean sheet and that says a lot about the mission these players are on now. I’m happy about that mindset.”
“The other thing I’m happy about is that we had two clear set goals for the group stage; one was to win the group and second was to get out of the group with as many players as possible available for the playoffs, but also fresh and peaking in form.
“The fact that we have had every 23 players on the park during the group stage means that it’s a clear signal to everyone that we need everyone in a tournament and I’m really happy that we’ve had everyone on the park.”
Australia will now gear up for Sunday’s quarter-final against South Korea, which will be held at the same time as Thailand’s clash against Japan. – www.the-afc.com
Pictures Courtesy #AFC