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Asian Watch: Squads confirmed, Wang fights for fitness 


Kuala Lumpur: Three weeks remain until Korea Republic and France kick off the biggest tournament in the women's game, and Asia's five FIFA Women's World Cup representatives have had another eventful week on the road to the Finals.

In this week's Asian Watch; Australia and Korea Republic have announced their final squads, and a Paris-bound Thailand are close to the doing the same, while Asako Takakura has reflected on the importance of last April's AFC Women's Asian Cup triumph in Jordan.

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Australia, Korea Republic squads confirmed

Two of Asia's contenders confirmed the players they hope will lead them to World Cup glory, with Australia revealing their squad on Tuesday, before Korea Republic followed suit with a Friday announcement.

The inclusion of 16-year-old Mary Fowler - who will become Australia's youngest ever World Cup player should she get on the pitch in France - earned the most headlines in Ante Milicic's selection, with Kyah Simon, scorer of five career goals at the tournament, the most significant omission.

 

There were few surprises in Yoon Duk-yeo's Korea Republic travelling party, with veteran goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi's non-selection through injury known well in advance of the squad announcement.

 


Thailand trim to 25 ahead of France test

Thailand are yet to name the 23 players representing them in France, but they have moved closer to finalising their contingent by cutting their 31-strong training squad to a list of 25 players, all of whom will travel to Europe on Tuesday ahead of next Saturday's friendly against France.

Of the two remaining cuts to be made, one must be a goalkeeper, with US-based Tiffany Daurnee Chantrak's inclusion taking the squad's shot-stopping stocks to four, while 2017 AFC U-19 Women's Championship graduate Phonphirun Philawan and former futsal international Orapin Waenngoen remain in contention as outfield players.

Meanwhile, holders United States - Thailand's first France 2019 opponent - continued their ominous pre-tournament form with a 5-0 win over New Zealand on Thursday.

 

Updated Thailand provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Waraporn Boonsing, Yada Sengyong, Sukanya Chor Charoenying, Tiffany Darunee Chantrak
Defenders: Duangnapa Sritala, Natthakran Chinwong, Kanjanaporn Saengkoon, Warunee Phetwiset, Khwanrudi Saengchan, Sunisa Srangthaisong, Ainon Phancha, Pitsamai Sornsai, Phonphirun Philawan
Midfielders: Pikul Khueanpet, Silawan Intamee, Nipawan Punyosuk, Wilaiporn Boothduang, Chuchuen Sudarat, Rattikan Thongsombut, Orapin Waenngoen
Forwards: Orathai Srimanee, Saowalak Pengngam, Taneekarn Dangda, Kanjana Sung-Ngoen, Suchawadee Nildhamrong


Wang plays catch-up as China PR build in Beijing

With her duties with French club Paris Saint-Germain completed for the season, current AFC Women's Player of the Year Wang Shuang joined her national team this week, but the Steel Roses star admits she is behind the eight-ball when it comes to fitness.

With the domestic-based players in Jia Xiuquan's training squad having undergone intensive training camps in Suzhou and, now, Beijing, Wang - whose online PSG documentary series has racked up eight million views in her home country - confirmed she has work to do to reach the high physical standards of her teammates.

China PR's preparations, including a friendly match against an Under-19 men's outfit reportedly won 6-3 by Jia's side. Australia's Emily Gielnik revealed Australia's home-based players have also been preparing against male opposition in an interview this week.


Takakura reflects on Jordan 2018 turning point

Japan head coach Asako Takakura has pinpointed AFC Women's Asian Cup Jordan 2018 as the moment that her developing side became a united squad.

Coming into last year's Continental Finals just weeks after a 6-2 hammering at the hands of the Netherlands, the Nadeshiko steadily progressed through the tournament before beating Australia 1-0 in the final to claim their second Asian title; an achievement Takakura reflected on this week.

"We knew it wouldn’t be an easy task, but the players played very hard, showed their persistence, and fought until the very end," she told the JFA's official website.

 

"Although the team was still work in progress, winning the title gave us great confidence moving forward, and that tournament really united our team as one."

While the majority of Japan's squad have their attention firmly focused on France, captain Saki Kumagai is looking no further than Saturday's UEFA Women's Champions League Final in Budapest, where her Olympique Lyonnais side will look to claim a fourth successive title against FC Barcelona.

Sawa's record set to be surpassed

One of Asia's all-time greats is set to have a World Cup record struck from the list after evergreen midfielder Formiga was named in Brazil's squad for the global Finals for an unprecedented seventh time.

Japanese icon Homare Sawa (pictured above) currently shares the record with 41-year-old Formiga, having played in six World Cups starting in 1995 in Sweden, where Sawa and Formiga played against each other in a Group A clash, won 2-1 by the Nadeshiko.

Formiga's record-breaking appearance may yet come against Asian opposition, with Brazil to face Australia in their second group stage match in Montpellier on June 13.

Photos: AFP

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