The Nadeshiko retain their title of Asian Champions after their victory in the final against Australia. As in 2014, Japan won on the smallest margin (1-0) against the Matildas with a goal scored by Kumi Yokoyama late in the game.


=> 2018 Asian Nations Cup - Program & Results


Japan wins its second title in the Asian Cup, the second consecutive after that won in 2014 in Vietnam. Tonight in Amman, the poster was the same as it was four years ago with the Japanese women struggling with Australia, two teams that also met in the group stage of this tournament for a 1-1 draw.

Australia's bad luck?

Before the start of this Asian Cup, Australia appeared as the favorite team of this 19th Asian Cup, after an exceptional 2017 that had allowed the Matildas to climb into the top 5 in the FIFA rankings. But since the beginning of this tournament, Australia has shown difficulties in assuming this label. In group stage, South Korea had resisted, while Japan was close to leaving the tournament the teammates of Steph Catley. In the semifinals, Thailand pushed Australia to the shoot-offs after a time lead to the score.

Australia with a difficult status to assume while Japan was able to progress in the shadows while the crisis seemed to the doors in case of poor performance in this Asian Cup. In this final, Japan has often been on the ropes, suffocated by the pressure and intensity imposed by Australia. The Nadeshiko were able to count on an exceptional performance of Ayaka Yamashita for Japanese goals, multiplying the decisive interventions in the first period.

The Matildas pushed Japan to its limits

From the first minutes of the game, the alerts are increasing in front of the Japanese goal with Steph Catley (5th) and Emily van Egmond (8th) knocking on the door, before this double-occasion in the 13th minute. On a ball coming from the left, Sam Kerr connects control chest then a powerful fly of the right in pivot that Ayaka Yamashita manages to push back on its line. Moments later, Lisa de Vanna sees her attempt captured by the Japanese keeper.

Japan on the recoil, bends a minute later with a penalty awarded to the Matildas following a hand of Saki Kumagai in the box. Elise Kellond-Knight is in charge but Yamashita has read the trajectory and intercepts the ball on her left (15th). The storm has passed, and if Australia remains dangerous in this first act, Japan also manages to shine. In the 35th minute, Mana Iwabuchi managed to sneak past several defenders and serve Yui Hasegawa in the meantime. The young midfielder's shot is deflected over the bar by vigilant Lydia Williams.

Emily van Egmond (38th) then Sam Kerr (39th) will have new opportunities for Australia but each time thwarted by Yamashita, intractable. In the second half, Australia continues its undermining work, and Japan seems progressively unable to take the ball properly out of its 30 meters. In the 53rd minute, we are close to the K.O with this strike at about thirty meters from Emily van Egmond and which abuts on the crossbar. Yamashita was beaten.

Kumi Yokoyama, a gold joker

At the brink of rupture, the Nadeshiko manage once again to contain, with difficulty, the Australian domination. A resistance that goes with the abnegation of the Japanese players who do not hesitate to jump on each of the enemy strikes near their surface. At the end of the match, the players of Asako Takakura finally manage to turn the tide.

A goal and a win came thanks to Kumi Yokoyama, excellent on the last two games in his role of joker out of the bench. After doubling against China in half, she scored here the goal of the title. On a long run from Yamashita, Yui Hasegawa manages to eliminate Ellie Carpenter and serve Yokoyama at 16 meters. Back to the goal, the Japanese striker manages to avoid the intervention of Alanna Kennedy and then place a shot from the right which is housed close to the left skylight, out of range of Lydia Williams (84).

Japan has managed to remove doubts

A goal that brings a blow very hard to Australia who dominated most of the meeting. In stoppage time, Ayaka Yamashita made a final intervention in her area to prevent Kyah Simon from equalizing (90 + 3).

Japan prevails at a time when the Nadeshiko and their coach Asako Takakura appeared under pressure. In addition to his record of a new continental trophy, this title gives credit to Japan at one year of the World Cup and the approach of "his" Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo.

Also note that, as a prelude to this final, China won the match for third place against Thailand (3-1). Best goal scorer with 7 goals, Li Ying opened the scoring for China, before the Steel Roses took off in the space of ten minutes.

Hichem Djemai