Asian trio pursue knockout stage glory
Rennes: Three of Asia’s women’s football powers remain in the race to become champions of the world after reaching the knockout stage at FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.
Japan, Australia and China PR all progressed from difficult groups to advance to the Round of 16, where the trio – who finished as the top three sides in last year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup – will push for greater honours on the game’s biggest stage.
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With three of the Continent’s five-strong contingent through to the business end of the competition, fans far and wide will be hoping one of Asia’s remaining representatives can follow in the footsteps of Japan’s class of 2011, who became the first AFC nation to win the competition.
Who, when, where?
NORWAY v AUSTRALIA
Stade de Nice, Nice – 21.00 (local time), June 22
The first of three mouth-watering clashes between Asian and European teams in the Round of 16 pits Australia against Group A runners-up Norway on the sparkling backdrop of the French Riviera.
So proud of the Matildas and what this team is all about. Keep breaking them barriers and helping kids to follow their DREAMS. Big love to my girl @samkerr1 For laying down the foundations for the next generation, keep enjoying your football and scoring loads of goals ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/wmoyNpUvWQ— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) June 19, 2019
Matildas fans will be hoping for another starring performance from captain Sam Kerr - who leads the France 2019 race with five group stage goals – as they look to reach the last eight for the fourth successive edition of the tournament.
Australia won the last meeting between the two sides 4-3 after a 95th-minute winner in February 2018. A repeat of that scenario on the World Cup stage would surely live long in the memory.
ITALY v CHINA PR
Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier – 18.00 (local time), June 25
Another World Cup, another successful group stage campaign for China PR, who continued their enviable record of never having missed the knockout stage of the tournament when qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
NATIONAL TEAM | The Steel Roses spent the yesterday afternoon on the coast of Le Havre after the match against Spain and the confirmation of the spot to the next stage of @FIFAWWC. #SteelRoses #CHN pic.twitter.com/Izix64YuAD— China Women's Football (@ChinaWNFT) June 19, 2019
Drawn alongside Germany and Spain in Group B, their path to this year’s Round of 16 was far from easy, but the concession of just one goal in three spirited performances helped Jia Xiuquan’s side advance with four points.
Their next opponents, appearing at the Finals for the first time since 1999, were one of the surprise packages of the group stage, finishing above heavyweights Australia and Brazil to top Group C, with a place in the last eight for the first time since 1991 the Italians’ next target.
NETHERLANDS v JAPAN
Roazhon Park, Rennes – 21.00 (local time), June 25
Winners in 2011, and runners-up four years later, Japan have become synonymous with FIFA Women’s World Cup success in recent editions of the tournament, and their youthful 2019 vintage has now earned the chance to emulate the heroics of Nadeshiko icons from years gone by.
World Cup winners like Saki Kumagai and Mana Iwabuchi remain key for the Asian champions, but head coach Asako Takakura is moulding a team in her own image, with a number of exciting new talents coming to the fore already in France.
Standing in the way of another chapter in the Japanese success story are a red-hot Netherlands outfit, who have strung together wins in their past six matches and boast star forward Vivianne Miedema who is considered one of the most ruthless goal scorers the global game.
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