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Asian Watch: Thailand arrive, Steel Roses cut to 26, Matildas prepare in Turkey

Kuala Lumpur: With the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 counting clock ticking under the two-week barrier, Asia’s five representatives are nearing the zenith of their pre-tournament preparations.

In this week’s Asian watch; Thailand become the first Asian team to touch down in France, China PR depart Beijing with three cuts still to be made from their squad, and Australia set up camp in Turkey with their biggest star in razor-sharp form.

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Thailand touch down in France

They may be the lowest-ranked Asian team to have qualified for the Finals, but Thailand are the first of the Continent’s France 2019 qualifiers to touch down in the host nation.

The 25-strong travelling party departed from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday ahead of Saturday’s sold-out friendly international against World Cup hosts France in Orleans.


Both head coach Nuengrutai Sranthongvian and forward Kanjana Sung-Ngoen this week stressed the importance of remaining totally focused against a side ranked fourth in the world, albeit one which knows little about their Thai opponents, according to French midfield star Amandine Henry.

Initially at least, the Chaba Kaew’s stay in France will be short. They’ll relocate to Belgium following Saturday’s match, where they will use the facilities of the Thai-owned OH Leuven club, before facing the Belgian national team on June 1.

Final announcement draws closer as Steel Roses depart


China PR’s 26-strong squad also left Paris on Friday night, but fans will need to wait until FIFA’s official final squad announcement on Monday to know which 23 players will carry the hopes of the world’s most populous nation in France 2019.

What is known is that both Yang Lina and Wang Linlin will not feature in the Finals, after the Shanghai duo remained in China following their exclusion from the squad, which was cut from 28 to 26 prior to the team’s departure.

Earlier in the week, head coach Jia Xiuquan reiterated his belief in the Steel Roses’ World Cup prospects, telling Xinhua News Agency his side have the potential to become world champions come July 7. They will face France in a friendly in Creteil on Friday.

China PR provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Bi Xiaolin, Peng Shimeng, Xu Huan, Yang Yan
Defenders: Wu Haiyan, Liu Shanshan, Han Peng, Wang Ying, Li Jiayue, Lin Yuping, Luo Guiping
Midfielders: Tan Ruyin, Wang Yan, Li Wen, Zhang Rui, Yao Wei, Lou Jiahui, Wang Shuang, Gu Yasha, Liu Yanqiu
Forwards: Yang Li, Yang Man, Li Ying, Xie Qiwen, Wang Shanshan, Song Duan

Red hot Kerr arrives in Antalya



Sam Kerr narrowly missed out on being named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year on Wednesday, but she arrived at Australia’s camp in Turkey in sparkling form after earning back-to-back Player of the Week Awards in the US-based National Women’s Soccer League.

The prolific Kerr - who finished third in the voting for the BBC award - scored twice in the opening 13 minutes to help her Chicago Red Stars to a 2-1 win over Houston in their final pre-World Cup outing on Sunday, following on from another brace against North Carolina Courage a week prior.


The first batch of 13 Australian players arrived in Antalya on Monday and being there is a case of Turkish delight for uncapped goalkeeper Tegan Micah, who told the FFA’s media team her France 2019 call-up was the best moment of her career.

Australia will remain on Turkey’s southern coast until late this week, when they will travel to Eindhoven for their final pre-tournament friendly against European champions the Netherlands on June 1.

Stress-free Japan hoping to peak when it counts


With less than two weeks away from the long-awaited France 2019 kick-off, teams across the world are stepping their intensity on the training pitch, but that’s not the case for Japan, whose pre-tournament training camp was described as ‘relaxed’ and ‘fun’ on Wednesday.

“We will be together for a long time and individually there will be tense moments, ups and downs, so I told the squad let’s enjoy,” head coach Asako Takakura told Reuters.


Takakura also revealed the Nadeshiko will tune up for the Finals with a match against a men’s side from a local university this weekend, following in the footsteps of both China PR and some of the domestic-based members of Australia’s squad.

Saki Kumagai also missed out on the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year after being named on the five-woman shortlist, but the Japan captain - who is set to link up her international teammates on Monday - will remember her week for the capture of a fourth successive UEFA Women’s Champions League title with Olympique Lyonnais last Saturday.

Kang racing to fill the void for Korea Republic


The eleventh-hour injury which brought veteran goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi’s World Cup to a premature end has created a three-way battle for the position of Korea Republic shot-stopper.

With 13 caps, Kang Ga-ae is the most experienced of the three goalkeepers in Yoon Duk-yeo’s squad, but she told Korean media she is racing to overcome an injury of her own to be ready for her side’s campaign.


"It would have been nice to have had a full camp, and now I'm prepared to put in extra work. I'll try to channel my nervous energy and turn it into confidence,” the 28-year-old told Yonhap News Agency.

Jung Bo-ram and Kim Min-jung – the other two Korean goalkeepers – have just five international caps between them, and neither has appeared on the international stage in the past six months.

Korea Republic will depart their home base for Europe this week, before meeting Sweden in a friendly in Goteborg on Friday.

Photos: AFP

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