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Know Your Teams: Group A


Thursday, September 12, 2019
Thailand U-16 Women's - 2019

Chonburi: Featuring hosts Thailand, two of the Continent’s women’s football heavyweights in Japan and Australia, and an emerging Bangladesh, Group A of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019 promises to deliver memorable matches as Asia’s stars of the future stake their claim for a regional title.


With Sunday’s highly-anticipated tournament openers drawing ever closer, the-AFC.com breaks down the contenders in the first of a two-part series looking at the competition ahead in Chonburi.

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THAILAND

Qualification method: Qualified automatically as hosts
2017 performance: Group stage
Best finish: Third place (2005)

Hosting the Finals for the second edition in a row, Thailand’s place in the tournament was assured before a ball was kicked, but they participated in the first stage of qualifying nonetheless, racking up 25 goals in four successive wins in Tajikistan.

Hard-fought losses to China PR and New Zealand, as well as a 2-2 draw against Chile, suggest this year’s Thailand side may be more competitive than the outfit who shipped nine goals on the way to a group stage exit two years ago, but a productive start against Bangladesh will be a crucial first step if they are to reach the semi-finals.

With interim senior national team boss Kaenson Naruephon at the helm, Thailand will hope to better their third-place finish in 2005, which remains the high watermark of their participation in the competition.


JAPAN

Qualification method: Qualified automatically as 2017 third place finishers
2017 performance: Third place
Best finish: Champions (2005, 2011, 2013)

U-16日本女子代表 優勝で大会を締めくくる ~HiFA 平和祈念 2019 Balcom BMW CUP 広島女子サッカーフェスタ #jfa #nadeshiko #daihyo https://t.co/NdSv1pKC4A

— JFAなでしこサッカー (@jfa_nadeshiko) August 12, 2019

Always a contender at this competition, Japan arrive at this year’s edition fresh from an exceptionally successful BMW Cup campaign in Hiroshima, where they amassed 34 goals in three matches against clubs and regional selections from both Japan and Australia.

Now coached by Michihisa Kano, whose own playing career included a stint in Brazil, the Little Nadeshiko will took to succeed where the class of 2017 fell short, and become the first nation to win the Asian title four times.

As the only nation in Group A to have previously reached the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship final – and having done so in two of the last three editions - Japan will be confident of again reaching the business end of the tournament in Thailand.


AUSTRALIA

Qualification method: Winners of Qualification Round 2, Group A
2017 performance: Group stage
Best finish: Fourth place (2009)

Thailand bound! ✈️

Best of luck to the Westfield Junior @TheMatildas at the AFC U-16 Women's Championship #AFCU16W

We're sure you'll do Australia proud. pic.twitter.com/kYiEh2I3Id

— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) September 10, 2019

While Australia has established itself as one of the strongest women’s football nations in Asia, and become increasingly competitive on the world stage, Continental youth tournaments are one area where the nation has struggled to leave its mark.

The Junior Matildas will be looking to buck that trend this time around, and – having avoided both of the 2017 finalists in the group stage draw – they’ll will be hopeful of a first AFC U-16 Women’s Championship semi-final appearance since a side featuring Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Emily van Egmond finished fourth in 2009.

Under experienced head coach Rae Dower, who returns after leading the team in Chonburi two years ago, the side has racked up 12 consecutive wins in a mixture of qualifiers, friendly matches and a tour of the Oceania region, further boosting Australia’s hopes of success in Thailand.


BANGLADESH

Qualification method: Runners-up in Qualification Round 2, Group B
2017 performance: Group stage
Best finish: Group stage (2005, 2017)

 

Bangladesh National U16 women's team conclude their preparations for the AFC competition by earning a hard-fought draw...

Posted by Bangladesh Football Federation on Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Back after an encouraging return to Asia’s top table two years ago, hopes are high that Bangladesh can challenge some of the more experienced contenders, and perhaps become the first South Asian nation to advance to the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship semi-finals.

With senior national team head coach Golam Robbani Choton once again at the helm, Bangladesh navigated qualifying in impressive style, winning six of seven matches - including a memorable 2-0 victory over Vietnam – and losing only to the highly-rated China PR on a successful road to Thailand.

They have also enjoyed a strong preparation, with three friendly matches against local opposition since arriving in Thailand last week - producing two wins and a draw ahead of Sunday’s crucial opening match against the host nation.


AFC U-16 Women’s Championship – Group A fixtures (all times local)

September 15: Japan v Australia (16:00), Thailand v Bangladesh (19:00)
September 18: Bangladesh v Japan (16:00), Australian v Thailand (19:00)
September 21: Thailand v Japan (16:00), Australia v Bangladesh (16:00)