By Mitchell Keenan
As day 4 came around, this year’s Kanga Cup competitors were welcomed with a beautiful day of sunshine in the capital.
While the teams who came up short of the finals enjoyed their cross-group games, the top seeded teams geared up for preliminary and semi-finals ahead of the final day tomorrow.
With teams pouring all their efforts into the competition to this point, it was go time and that showed out around the grounds, as competitors from all around Australia and overseas fought for their spot in a grand final on Friday.
Canberra FC go through to final with comeback win
Canberra FC qualified for the U/16 Female cup final, downing Shellharbour Junior Football Club in a thrilling comeback 3-2 win at Kambah on Thursday morning.
A late winner from striker Anna Mihalyka gave the Canberra side their 4th straight win in the tournament, and the striker spoke of her excitement to be playing in the cup and taking out the win.
“It feels great, the girls have played really hard and have been the whole tournament and getting that last goal felt really good. It has been a really good cup, the best I’ve ever played,” said Mihalyka.
Nikola Brozinic’s side have had a dream run in this year’s Kanga Cup, going undefeated in a tough group that featured a strong Inter Lions side as well as Parklands United from New Zealand.
It was hard to pick a clear favourite going into the game, and the two sides were well matched in the middle of the park.
Shellharbour looked strong early in the second half, and before too long the interstate side took a 2-1 lead over Canberra FC.
Brozinic’s side would not back down though, putting their all into the game and earning an equaliser with 15 minutes remaining.
As the clock wound down, the two sides grew desperate and the game turned into an end-to-end attacking frenzy.
With just a few minutes remaining, Mihalyka popped up with a lovely run and drilled home from the top of the box to put her side ahead.
The game grew tense as Shellharbour pushed for a late leveler, and tensions rose as they were awarded a late penalty, but the spot kick was wasted going inches wide of the mark.
Canberra managed to hold off their opponents for remainder of the game, and the local side will now go into the final tomorrow to face YeSung, who are yet to concede a goal in the tournament having beaten Inter Lions 4-0 in the 2nd semi-final.
Thailand’s Khonkaen progress in high-scoring semi-final
The Khonkaen Sports School of Thailand have advanced to the U/18 Male cup final, beating the Canberra United Academy after extra time in an eight-goal thriller at Wanniassa on Thursday.
In a matchup that could easily have passed as a grand final cup tie, Thai side Khonkaen and the Canberra United Academy played out an entertaining semi-final in front of a sizeable crowd.
Khonkaen started the game with a high intensity, testing the Academy’s backline with some long balls towards a pacey forward line, but the CUA were looking to play a patient passing game to break down their opponents through the middle.
Both sides capitalised on early chances, as the teams drew level before the Acaemy took the lead leading into the second half.
Khonkaen made a rapid start to the second half, scoring an early goal to tie the game up once again, before their high paced press was rewarded as they took the lead for the first time in the game.
The Academy proved worthy opponents coming up against an incredibly fit Khonkaen side, and the locals hit back with just over 5 minutes left in the half, sending the game into extra time.
The chances came pouring on for both sides as legs began to tire, but it was Khonkaen who would go ahead with a close range finish, and the Thai side sealed their spot in the finals with a second goal in extra time, finishing 5-3 winners in an exhilarating encounter.
The international competitors will now shift their focus to a grand-final matchup with the International Football School Blue which will take place at Southwell Park on Friday.