February 14 – The AFC qualifiers for the Tokyo 2022 Olympics women’s tournament have been whittled down to the final four teams after Australia came back in injury time to secure a 1-1 draw against China and win the group on goal difference. Both teams go through to the final play-off.
Australia will face Vietnam in home and away legs while China will face South Korea. With China in lockdown over the coronavirus, they also need to find a host venue outside of China if they are to continue in the competition.
The team will also remain outside of China to prepare for the first match against South Korea on March 6 in Yongin. The return match at the yet to be decided venue will be March 11.
The hosting of Group B in Australia had already been moved from Nanjing after the outbreak of the coronavirus. When the 32 member Chinese women’s soccer squad arrived in Brisbane they were immediately quarantined having travelled through the city of Wuhan in mid-January, where the outbreak began.
The matches were rescheduled so that China could take part qualification tournament, with the Chinees opening their campaign in Sydney on February 6 beating Thailand 6-1, before overcoming Chinese Taipei 7-0 on February 9, and then progressing to the group-deciding draw against host nation Australia.
Despite the challenges the Chinese women have proved remarkably resilient and say that the experience has strengthened them. The team were only two minutes away from what would have been a shock win against Australia and they will carry that confidence and resolve into the final play-offs.
“After the match today, we will train for a few days in Australia and then analyse the next opponent,” said China’s captain Haiyan Wu told the AFC website. “We will prepare for the coming, crucial matches, believing that we can beat them if we are in our best condition next month.”
“Through these three games, I believe that everyone can see that we are constantly improving. Although we have encountered many difficulties recently, everyone, including the coaching team, the CFA, and all the players are very confident in themselves.
“I am sure we will play even better in the future games.”
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