Tonight the under-16 Australian girls team will play for a place in the 2010 FIFA under-17 World Cup. The team won eve ry one of its three group games, against China, Taiwan and Japan, but then lost its semi-final against North Korea – who are the reigning world champions at that age group.
But tonight they will play Japan in Bangkok and the winner will be the third-placed team in this year's AFC under-16 c hampionships. The top-three teams go through to next year's FIFA under-17 World Cup.
girlswithgame caught up with Australian under-16 head coach Robbie Hooker to find out what the feeling is like in camp as the team aim to be the first since 2006 to qualify for an age-group FIFA World Cup.
GWG: So heading into tonight's game, are you confident?
Robbie Hooker: We're reasonably confident, to score three goals against North Korea who are the reigning world champions in a game that we probably should have won, and to beat Japan and China in the group games, it goes to show we really aren't that far away from the top teams in the world.
Will you be very disappointed if Australia doesn't qualify for the World Cup? It absolutely will be very disappointing as our goal in coming here was to qualify for the World Cup. And really, we should be able to beat Japan and I think we will go into this game as favourites. But football is a funny game and it doesn't always go to form. Still I think we have shown enough that we can win this game.
Will you make any changes to the starting line-up from the semi-final? We might, Tara Andrews [who scored all four goals in Australia's first group 4-0 win against China] has been out since the first game with a hamstring injury, but hopefully she will be able to play some part of the game.
Given that she did do so well in the first game, will that be a good confidence boost for the team? It certainly will, she's got a lot of good qualities and Japan haven't played against her yet. I'm not sure if they watched our first game against China, but they probably haven't seen her play at all, so she could be a bit of an unknown which is great.
Is there any areas of your game you need to improve from the last one against Japan? They've got a couple of tricky players that we need to make sure we don't give too much space to them. But we have played well so far. Against North Korea, had that game gone the other way which it was a chance to do, we would be talking about a completely different situation now. But we know we aren't too far away from those top teams.
So game kicks off at 8pm AEDT, score-up ASAP from hopefully about 10pm when it finishes. Good luck everyone!