Asian watch: Japan, Thailand book Euro fixtures, Ji faces Kumagai
Kuala Lumpur: With the opening match of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 just six weeks away, excitement is steadily building as the world's 24 best teams prepare to battle for global supremacy.
In the first of a series of weekly updates, the-AFC.com provides the latest news on Asia's five World Cup-bound teams, as they edge ever closer to the biggest tournament in the women's game.
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Japan lock in Spain for final hit out
The identity of Japan's final pre-World Cup opponent has been revealed, with a friendly match against Spain set for June 2, eight days before the Asian champions get their France 2019 campaign underway.
Announced on Friday, Nadeshiko head coach Asako Takakura is expecting a difficult hit out in the match, revealing her belief than the Spaniards are a better side than their current World Ranking of 13th suggests.
The clash will be held in the resort town of Le Tonquet in Northern France, two hours north of Paris, where Japan will meet Argentina in their opening match of the Finals.
Another title secured, Kumagai set for Ji showdown
The World Cup is appearing ever closer on the horizon, but Japan captain Saki Kumagai isn't quite done winning trophies at club level, having sealed a sixth consecutive French Division 1 Féminine title with the all-conquering Olympique Lyonnais, who won the league for the 13th successive season with a 4-0 win at Dijon.
A fourth successive UEFA Women's Champions League title also remains on the table for Kumagai's side, but they will have to overcome a Chelsea side boasting Korea Republic ace Ji So-yun if they are reach next month's final, with Lyon holding a 2-1 lead going into Sunday's semi-final second leg in London.
The weekend ahead could be a double celebration for the talismanic Ji, who is among the five nominees for the English PFA Player of the Year award after a stellar season for the Blues, which has already seen her named in the PFA's Team of the Year on Friday.
Chaba Kaew bound for Belgium
Thailand's pre-tournament schedule is now set, with Nuengrutai Srathongvian's charges to finish their preparations in Belgium, where they will make use of the training facilities of Thai-owned professional club Oud-Heverlee Leuven.
Already in camp in Bangkok ahead of their second trip to the Finals, the Southeast Asian side will travel early to France for a friendly against the hosts in Orleans on May 25, before hopping across the northern border for their final pre-tournament measures, including a friendly against the Belgian national team, also in Leuven, on June 1.
Sam Kerr doing Sam Kerr things. pic.twitter.com/NyN2W70SIH— Chicago Red Stars (@chiredstarsPR) April 20, 2019
From Seattle to Southeast Asia, goals aplenty for Matildas
With 12 goals in four matches since the appointment of head coach Ante Milicic, finding the back of net doesn't appear to be a problem for Australia; a point that was further underlined as a number of players found the net for club and country over the past week.
Captain and goal scorer extraordinaire Sam Kerr continued her superb start the American National Women's Soccer League season, scoring her second goal in as many matches to help Chicago Red Stars to a 4-4 draw with Portland Thorns, while defender Alanna Kennedy helped Orlando Pride to their first point of the season with an inventive effort she humbly dubbed a "soft bicycle" kick in their 1-1 draw away to Seattle.
While the Matildas senior stars were on target in the US, 16-year-old prodigy Mary Fowler kept her name well and truly in the spotlight, bagging a 15-minute hat-trick on the way to a five-goal haul as Australia beat Nepal 11-1 in their opening AFC Women's U-19 Championship Round 2 Qualifier in Myanmar.
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