JINAN, CHINA – Women’s World Cup champion Japan earned its place at next year’s London Olympics on Thursday after Australia beat host China 1-0 in the final Asian qualifying tournament.
Australia’s win guaranteed that Japan, which was held to a 1-1 draw by North Korea earlier in the day, will finish in the top two at the tournament with one game left.
Emily van Egmond broke a scoreless deadlock with a powerful strike from outside the penalty area for Australia in the 62nd minute.
Japan remained top in the six-team table with 10 points from four matches, two points clear of North Korea.
Australia moved up to third place with six points while China dropped to fourth with five points.
Against Japan, North Korea equalized through Kim Jo Ran two minutes into second-half stoppage time.
Japan had opened the scoring in the 83rd minute when Yuki Nagasato’s shot deflected off North Korea goalkeeper Jo Yun Mi and then defender Kim Nam Hui.
North Korea outplayed Japan for much of the game, repeatedly coming close to break the goalless deadlock.
“We allowed the late equalizer after some mistakes, and we can’t do anything about what happened,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki. “The good thing was that we scored from limited chances. We just have to regroup and play well in our next match.”
The tournament, which concludes Sunday, pits China, Australia, North and South Korea, Thailand and Japan against each other, with the top two sides progressing to the Olympics.
“We knew exactly how they were going to attack in that situation (sending a long ball into the box), so it’s a shame we allowed them to equalize,” said midfielder Aya Miyama.
“We needed to move the ball around in the dying stages. The way we lost the ball wasn’t good at all. But I don’t think we need to be so upset because we didn’t lose,” she said.