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France 2019 lift off for Asian quintet

Paris: Australia, Japan, China PR, Korea Republic and Thailand will carry the hopes of a Continent when the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 begins on Friday.

With all five teams confident of performing strongly, and Asian teams having reached the final in three of the past five FIFA Women’s World Cups, hopes are high that the 2015 achievement of four AFC nations reaching the knockout stage can be equalled in France.

One of the Asian contingent, Korea Republic, will be in action in the tournament’s opening match, against France in Paris on Friday, with the final to be played in Lyon on July 7.

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The Contenders

24 teams will feature in the tournament’s group stage, including defending champions the United States. The winners and runners-up from all six groups will advance to the Round of 16, along with the four best third-placed teams.

Group A: France, Korea Republic, Norway, Nigeria Group B: Germany, China PR, Spain, South Africa Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica Group D: England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands Group F: United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Asia’s opening matches

Friday, June 7: France v Korea Republic @ Parc des Princes, Paris (21:00 local time) Saturday, June 8: Germany v China PR @ Roazhon Park, Rennes (15:00 local time) Sunday, June 9: Australia v Italy @ Stade du Hainaut, Valenciennes (13:00 local time) Monday, June 10: Argentina v Japan @ Parc des Princes, Paris (18:00 local time) Tuesday June 11: United States v Thailand @ Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims (21:00 local time)

The Asian Contingent

Australia: Ranked sixth in the world, and featuring superstar striker Sam Kerr, Australia are aiming for nothing less than their best ever performance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Matildas have reached the quarter-finals in the last three editions of the tournament.

Japan: Winners in 2011, and runners-up four years later, Japan will unleash a talented new generation of players in France, although World Cup-winners such as Saki Kumagai and Mana Iwabuchi remain key.

Korea Republic: After breaking through for a first ever knockout stage appearance in Canada four years ago, Korea Republic – led by Chelsea star Ji So-yun – will target a repeat performance in France.

China PR – Asia’s pioneering force on the world stage, China PR are aiming to reproduce the quality that took them to the World Cup Final in 1999, with AFC Women’s Player of the Year Wang Shuang considered pivotal to their hopes.

Thailand – Appearing on the world stage for the second time after qualifying four years ago, Thailand will aim to show the world how much they’ve improved and look to become one of a select handful of nations to have won multiple World Cup matches.

From China PR serving as inaugural hosts in 1991 and reaching the final in 1999, to Japan’s fairy-tale title win 2011, Asian teams have seldom failed to leave their mark on the FIFA Women's World Cup.

A record four Asian teams reached the knockout stage in 2015, with three of them advancing to the quarter-finals, as the Continent confirmed its status as one of the most powerful in the women’s game.

Did you know

If Japan reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 decider, they will become the first side in the history of the tournament to appear in three consecutive finals, and a Japan v USA decider would mark the first time – in men’s or women’s World Cups – that the same two sides met to decide the title three times in a row.

Photos: FIFA via Getty Images

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