CommBank Junior Matildas: Finals bound and not settling for less than silverware
It took a gruelling 108 minutes to separate Australia and Thailand in the semi-final of the AFF U18 Women's Championship last night, with an Ella O'Grady goal sealing the CommBank Junior Matildas' spot in the final against Vietnam.
"The girls will certainly be tired, they gave absolutely everything out there tonight," head coach Rae Dower said after the 120-minute do-or-die match-up.
"Tonight was exceptional, both teams were exceptional. Thailand was a very different challenge compared to what we'd experienced throughout the rest of the tournament. They were an exceptional opponent and as you saw it was a fight right until the very end.
"When you look at the difference and improvement in South-East Asian nations, it was certainly a fitting semi-final," she continued.
With plenty of chances and some arguable refereeing calls, Dower praised her team for the way in which they handled themselves, not succumbing to frustration.
"I'm very proud of the girls, it would've been really easy for the team to feel frustrated tonight, we certainly didn't get a lot of those 50/50 calls, but they created so many chances and I'm really, really proud that they stuck to the game plan.
READ: Dower: "We're not just satisfied with making the semis.."
MORE: CommBank Junior Matildas clinch spot in AFF U18 semi-final
"The girls have exceeded their expectations, tonight was very hot, very humid so we would've loved to have put one of those chances away in regular time but their winning mentality showed right up until the very end."
With the score sitting deadlocked at 0-0 after regular time, Dower says she reinforced a belief mindset before the team ran out for extra time.
"I told them this was our game to lose, we had so many chances so they just had to keep that belief that if we kept working, the opportunity would come," she explained.
"It's all about recovery now, it was a long night at the office, 120 minutes in the legs for a lot of players so we will be focusing on refuelling and resting so we can come out guns firing for the final."
After three years away from international competition, Dower said the CommBank Junior Matildas want nothing less than silverware when asked what the goal is going into the final against Vietnam.
"I don't even need to ask my girls what their goal is for the final. We're here to win, we're not here for second place, we want to take home the trophy."
AFF U18 Women’s Championship 2022 – Match Schedule (Australia)
Australia U18 v Vietnam U18
Date: Thursday, 4 August 2022
Venue: Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, Indonesia
Kick-off: 8.00pm (local); 11.00pm AEST