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Kuala Lumpur: As the countdown to the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup continues, previews the clash between Japan and Australia - Asia’s two highest-ranked women’s teams at the Tournament of Nations in the United States.

Japan v Australia

FIFA Rankings: Japan 6, Australia 7

Head-to-head: 24 matches (Japan 10 wins, Australia 6 wins, 8 draws)

Last meeting: Japan 1 Australia 3 – 2016 Olympic Qualifiers; Osaka, Japan

Tameka Butt’s opening-day goal helped Australia conquer the World Champions – and a 30-year hoodoo – but their attention now turns to rivals from much closer to home; Asako Takakura’s Japan.

In a match that will potentially preview the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final, Asia’s top two teams will face-off in San Diego later on Sunday with plenty of recent history fresh in the memory.

The sides have met seven times since 2010, often in crucial matches such as the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final and a FIFA Women’s World Cup Quarter-Final (pictured above) in 2015.

The Nadeshiko prevailed in dramatic circumstances on both those occasions, but Australia exacted a measure of revenge in their last meeting, defeating the Asian champions 3-1 in Osaka during qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Japan’s failure to qualify for those Games was the catalyst for the introduction of a new generation of players, a number of whom took the field in last Thursday’s tournament-opening 1-1 draw against Brazil.

Yuka Momiki scored for Japan in their opening Tournament of Nations match against Brazil on Thursday. 

One such player was 21-year-old forward Yuka Momiki, who gave her side the lead after coming on as a second half substitute, while Aya Shameshima was the only Japanese defender with more than three international caps to her name before the tournament.

By contrast, Australia’s travelling party contains much of the same personnel who outplayed their AFC rivals in Osaka, with Lisa De Vanna and Katrina Gorry – two of the Matildas’ goal scorers that night – remaining key fixtures in Alen Stajcic’s squad.

Katrina Gorry (right) was part of the Australian squad that denied Japan a place in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. 

Japan-based Gorry was influential against the Americans, pulling the strings from midfield as Australia’s attacking trio of De Vanna, Butt and the in-from Sam Kerr repeatedly stretched the US defence.

Australia’s history-making win drew much praise in their homeland – including from the country’s Prime Minister on social media – but there is little time to celebrate, as their attention turns to familiar foes, featuring a number of unfamiliar faces.

Following the All-Asian affair, the United States will attempt to get their campaign back on track against Brazil later on Sunday. 

Photos:, AFP