Samantha Kerr's late strike clinches Matildas' spot in Women's World Cup
Matildas forward Sam Kerr has lifted her star power yet another level by scoring the goal which booked Australia's spot in next year's Women's World Cup in France.
An underperforming Matildas side looked set to exit the Asian Women's Cup and go into the lottery of a World Cup play-off until Kerr conjured up an equaliser to earn her side a 1-1 draw against Japan in Amman on Friday (Saturday AEST).
Kerr, who scored in a national record seven-successive international matches earlier this year, managed to score an unlikely goal after latching onto a low cross ahead of the goalkeeper and turning the ball home from an acute angle.
Australia enjoyed more possession than the reigning Asian champions, but lacked a cutting edge in attack. The Matildas seemed set to pay a heavy price when Japan midfielder Mizuho Sakaguchi side-footed home the opening goal on 63 minutes.
Australia had the better of the first half, creating several half chances, the best of which saw Lisa De Vanna fail to convert from close range,
The Matildas, however, managed little creativity in the second period against a well-organised Japan defence.
"Everything is a bit of a blur right now after qualifying," Kerr said. "We should have taken our chances in the first half, but the main thing was to qualify for the World Cup and we have done that now.
"I'm not thinking about individual things, and I don't think anyone on our team is and it has always been that way."
Kerr's goal single-handedly lifted Australia from third to first -- ahead of Japan and South Korea -- such was the closeness of the standings.
Despite the euphoric finale, coach Alen Stajcic has concerns about his side's lack of penetration following a scoreless draw against South Korea to open the tournament a week ago.
"In the opening 25 minutes we should have had two or three goals, but we were lucky to make the goalkeeper work," Stajcic said.
"We are working hard at training on our execution and finishing in the front third."
Australia will start as red-hot favourites in the semifinal against Thailand on Tuesday with the Matildas seeking to regain the Asian title they won in 2010.