While Kerr missed some goal-worthy chances, including a sitter in the 75th and one hitting the woodwork, So-yun’s right-footed effort from 30 yards off also won her team a place in the 2023 World Cup finals that the Aussies will play as co-hosts.
In the semifinal, Korea Republic will take on Philippines, who claimed a thriller against Chinese Taipei in sudden death to book their first World Cup sojourn after the tie ended 1-1 in regulation time.
The Matildas came into the match with 23 goals scored in the group stage and will leave on that as they were frustrated by a rigorous South Korean defence in spite of claiming 66% possession. Their 14 shots in the match yielded just two on target and none inside the goal.
A couple of refereeing decisions did rile the Matildas, but the favourites were done by their failure to convert the flurry of chances, ending up with their worst result at the continental event. Kerr was unable to replicate the form that has made her the topscorer so far with seven goals, in spite of the Matildas dominating the first half an hour and the star striker finding the post with a powerful header.
But the world No. 18 South Koreans began crawling their way into the game. They were handed a penalty five minutes before half-time after Caitlin Foord was judged to have fouled Lee Geum-min inside the area. Skipper Cho So-hyun, however, squandered the opportunity by sending the ball high over Lydia Williams’ crossbar.
While Korea custodian Kim Jung-mi had to muster crucial saves in the first half, it was her counterpart Williams who was called into action in the second with Choe Yu-ri and Cho So-hyun testing her early in the half.
The Aussies were left disgruntled when the referee paid no heed to their penalty appeal after captain Stephanie Catley – on her 100th international appearance – was brought down in the box in the 60th minute. With 15 minutes remaining, Kerr miscued a perfect ball from the pacey substitute Cortnee Vine for her worst miss of the day. Then, with two minutes remaining, Ji picked up possession 30 yards from the goal and unleashed a right foot drive that Williams could only admire as it flew into the top corner.
In the last quarterfinal, Quinley Quezada opened the scoring for Philippines in the 49th minute while Li-Ping Zhuo managed a late equaliser, eight minutes from time, to send the match into extra time. But it was only with the second kick of sudden death that Sarina Bolden sealed the win for Philippines after extra time ended goalless and a 3-3 scoreline in the shoot-out.
While Korea Republic and Philippines stay on course for their maiden AFC continental title, a disappointed Australia will have to wait another four years for their next attempt at adding to their 2010 crown.