September 16 – The expanded Women’s Asian Cup kicks off this Friday with 24 nations in group action as they bid for the final 12 qualifying berths at the 16 team finals to be played next year in India from January 20 to February 6.
The marquee women’s national team competition in 2022 will be the biggest in its history and sees a step-change in the levels of participation in the women’s game across the AFC region.
A total of 24 nations have been divided into eight groups that will be played centrally. Each group winner will join reigning champions Japan, 2018 runners-up Australia and 2018 third-placed China PR as well as hosts India who have been pre-qualified for the finals.
Bahrain is hosting Group A and Tajikistan staging Group B and C. Kyrgyz Republic will be the destination for Group D followed by Group E, F and G, hosted by Uzbekistan, while Group H matches will be held in Palestine.
The action will start September 17 in Group E when Mongolia, who have never qualified for the finals, face Korea Republic, who finished third in 2003, at the Pakhtakor Stadium in Tashkent. Hosts Uzbekistan are the other team in the group.
Uzbekistan is also hosting Group F – Philippines (looking for their 10th successive finals qualification), Hong Kong and Nepal – and Group G – Jordan (2018 hosts), Iran and Bangladesh.
In what could prove to be a major breakthrough in the geo-politics of the region so often played out through football, Palestine will be hosting Malaysia and Thailand in Group H. That group kicks off this Sunday with the two visitors playing each other at the Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram.
In Group B in Tajikistan, Maldives start their campaign against Vietnam, who are looking to reach the finals for the ninth time on September 23. Tajikistan plus a play-off qualifier (to be confirmed) will make up the group. In Group C, also hosted in Tajikistan, play-off qualifiers Singapore meet Indonesia at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe on September 24.
The matches in Group A, comprising Chinese Taipei, Bahrain (hosts) and Laos, as well as Group D (to be hosted in the Kryzg Republic), which include Myanmar, the United Arab Emirates, Guam and Lebanon, have been rescheduled to October.
The Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 will decide the qualifiers for the Women’s World Cup in 2023. The AFC has five full places for the expanded 2023 World Cup, plus two intercontinental playoff places.
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