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France 2019: How They Qualified

Kuala Lumpur: Asia’s FIFA Women’s World Cup-bound quintet are just days away from taking to the biggest stage in the women’s game, and all five them will arrive having earned their place on the world stage.

As the excitement for builds, looks back to last year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan, where the Continent’s top five survived the ruthless atmosphere of tournament football to stamp their passports to France 2019.

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China PR

Date of Qualification: April 9, 2018

They weren’t able to secure a record-extending ninth Asian title, but – thanks to a dominant Jordan 2018 group stage - China PR were perhaps the only Asian team whose place in the final draw in France was never in any real danger

Then under the tutelage of Icelandic coach Siggi Eyjólfsson, the Steel Roses were held scoreless for nearly an hour by Thailand in their opening match, but four goals in just over 20 minutes helped them to a 4-0 win, before a Li Ying-inspired 3-0 win over Philippines three days later saw them become the first Asian team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup.

Wang Shuang dazzled in an 8-1 hammering of hosts Jordan, but a 3-1 defeat to Japan ended their Asian title hopes at the semi-final stage, before they bounced to claim third place with another win against Thailand, with Li’s seven goals earning her the top scorer award for China PR, who replaced Eyjólfsson with Jia Xiuquan a month later.

Key moment: She won’t be part of the Chinese squad at the Finals, but Ma Jun provided an important moment on the road to France when she slammed in her side’s second in the 3-0 win over the Philippines, which sealed qualification.



Date of Qualification: April 12, 2018

After qualifying for the first time in 2015, Thailand’s bid for a return to the world stage began in April 2017, where they beat Palestine (6-0) and Chinese Taipei (1-0) to progress to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Finals, where they were brought back to earth by a 4-0 opening defeat the hands of China PR.

But the Chaba Kaew rallied. A rousing 6-1 win over Jordan put them back on track and set up a virtual World Cup playoff against the Philippines, where Kanjana Sung-Ngoen scored the opening two goals in the 3-1 win which booked her side’s ticket to France.

Thailand’s best performance came after World Cup qualification had been secured, with the Southeast Asians coming within minutes of pulling off a stunning upset against Australia in the semi-finals, with Alanna Kennedy scoring in the dying moments to force extra-time, before the Matildas won on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Key moment:

Kanjana Sung-Ngoen reprised her 2014 role as Thailand’s World Cup qualifying hero against the Philippines, but it was Silawan Intamee’s looping free-kick, which made it 3-0 on the night, that put her side’s place in France 2019 beyond doubt.



Date of qualification: April 13, 2018

A scoreless draw with Korea Republic, followed by a thumping 8-0 win over Vietnam, was far from a disastrous start to Jordan 2018 for Alen Stajcic’s Matildas, but a concentration of quality teams in Group B meant they went into their Matchday Three clash with Japan with everything on the line.

A Mizuho Sakaguchi goal, coupled with Korea Republic simultaneously easing to a win over Vietnam, meant Australia dropped to third place on the live group table, and required an 86th minute leveller from Sam Kerr to salvage the 1-1 draw which took them to the knockout stage and with, it, the World Cup.

Australia went on to scrape through their semi-final against Thailand on penalties after a 2-2 draw, before losing 1-0 to Japan in the final, held a week after their group stage epic.

While much of the playing personnel from their qualification campaign will be among the Australia squad in France, they will have a new head coach, after Ante Milicic replaced Stajcic in February 2019.

Key moment:

Among the pre-tournament favourites after a year of outstanding football, Australia were four minutes away from a group stage exit at Jordan 2018, but the prolific Sam Kerr stepped up late against Japan to secure the Matildas’ place in France and spare them the stress of a play-off.



Date of qualification: April 13, 2018

World Cup winners in Germany in 2011, runners-up in Canada in 2015, and Asian champions in Vietnam in 2014, Japan arrived in Jordan with several new faces, but they emerged from the tournament with the same old result as they claimed back to back AFC Women’s Asian Cup titles.

No team in Group B found the going easy at the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the Nadeshiko were no exception, with their 4-0 win over Vietnam followed by draws against Korea Republic (0-0) and Australia (1-1) as Asako Takakura’s side reached the semi-finals – thereby qualifying for France 2019 – by virtue of having scored one more goal than the Koreans.

Mana Iwabuchi and Yui Hasegawa starred throughout the tournament, but the knockout stage was Kumi Yokoyama’s domain, with Japan’s super-sub coming on to score twice in their 3-1 semi-final win over China PR, before rattling in a superb 84th-minute winner in the final against Australia.

Key moment:

Precise passing, intelligent movement and an unerring finish; veteran Mizuho Sakaguchi’s goal against Australia had everything fans have come to expect from Japan, and it was undoubtedly their best moment on the day they secured qualification for France 2019.


Korea Republic

Date of qualification: April 16, 2018

A good 378 days after Asian qualifying for the FIFA World Cup France 2019 began, a five-star Korea Republic performance saw them become the fifth and final team from the Continent to seal their place.

A journey that began more than a year earlier – and included a stirring draw in front of more than 40,000 DPR Korea fans in Pyongyang - finished with a tally of eight matches played, none lost and only one goal conceded as Yoon Duk-yeo’s side bounced back from the cruellest of group stage eliminations at Jordan 2018 in the best way possible.

Scoreless draws against Japan and Australia, and a 4-0 win over Vietnam, saw Yoon’s side unluckily eliminated on goals scored, but they outclassed the Philippines in the fifth-place play-off to ensure back to back World Cup qualifications for the first time.

Key moment:

It was Jang Sel-gi who scored the crucial equaliser against DPR Korea in Jordan 2018 qualifying, and she proved she was a player for the big occasion when she netted a sumptuous opener to get Korea Republic up and running in their 5-0 win over Philippines in the World Cup qualification play-off.



Photos: AFP

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