By Paul Nicholson
April 20 – The AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 concludes tonight in Amman, Jordan, with Australia facing reigning champions Japan. The final will follow on from the play-off for third place between China and tournament surprise package Thailand.
The tournament has been a huge success, both as a competition but also as a showcase for the Women’s game in the region as it pushes for further growth.
One step on that growth path will be the introduction of an AFC women’s club competition. Meeting before tonight’s final, the AFC Women’s Football Committee said there will be a pilot phase and that the AFC administration will study the format and timing of launch of the new competition.
The AFC Technical Division supported the initiative reporting that good quality club competition will be vital technically in closing the gap between the top teams and the next tier of Member Associations.
Further emphasising the expansion of the women’s game, 28 AFC nations have entered the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 competition. The first round of qualifiers will involve five groups comprising four teams and second round will involve three groups of four teams. Both will be played in a centralised format, with the final qualification play-off matches to be played on a home-and-away basis across the top two teams of each group.
Japan start as favourites
Tonight’s final is a clash of the AFC’s giant women’s teams, with Japan having qualified with a 3-1 win over China PR in an entertaining last four encounter at the King Abdullah II Stadium on Tuesday.
Australia’s clash with tournament surprise package Thailand saw an Aussie win but it took a last minute comeback and penalties to squeeze through. It was second time in as many matches that the Matildas had scored in the dying moments of a match to stay in the tournament.
With Thailand leading 2-1 with minutes to go the Thais were reduced to 10 players. Australia took advantage of the extra player and scored their last gasp equaliser that saw the game go into extra time. The Thais hung through the extra 30 minutes despite Aussie pressure, before the deciding penalty shoot out that saw Australia win 3-1.
Thailand have rapidly established themselves as a regional force in women’s football. They have been awarded the hosting of the AFC Women’s Under-19 and Under-16 Championship 2019 finals, which will take place on October 27-November 9 and September 15-28, 2019, respectively.
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