• Korea DPR win third successive East Asian crown
  • Important preparation for China PR, Korea Republic and Japan
  • Korea DPR now unbeaten at the EAFF Championship for seven years

The road to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ became clearer for Asia aspirants with the recent draw for April’s qualifiers taking place in Jordan. On the field, four of Asia’s best had the chance to test themselves over the past week as the sixth edition of the EAFF (East Asian Football Federation) Championship took place in Chiba, Japan.

The fact the biennial tournament was won by Korea DPR - the only team among the quartet already eliminated from France 2019 qualifying - says much about the strength of women’s football in that part of the Asian continent. The North Koreans were eliminated from France 2019 contention earlier this year after finishing behind Korea Republic on goal difference during the preliminary stage.

If Korea DPR felt they had a point to prove in Chiba, then they emphatically did so. Korea DPR won all three matches without conceding a goal, and in the process wrapped up a third successive regional crown.

The four-time Women’s World Cup participants entered the final matchday of the round-robin tournament needing just a draw against hosts Japan to triumph. But Korea DPR underlined their dominance with second-half goals from Kim Yun-Mi and 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup-winner Ri Hyang-Sim for a 2-0 victory. Kim Yun-Mi finished as top-scorer with four goals and was also named the tournament’s best player.

New-look Nadeshiko
Few overseas-based players lined up at the tournament, with Japan perhaps impacted the most. Notable absentees included Lyon-based captain Saki Kumagai and Frankfurt’s Kumi Yokoyama.

One former Frauen Bundesliga player to make an impact was Mana Iwabuchi, who scored a late winner in Japan’s 3-2 win over Korea Republic, with the diminutive attacker having spent four years in Germany. Then it was the turn of Mina Tanaka to grab the headlines with the only goal of the match to see off China PR.

Japan coach Asako Takakura suggested before the tournament that her side were are well advanced in their transition since the last Women’s World Cup campaign under Norio Sasaki.

“We finally started to look like a team after going through several training camps together,” Takakura said. “There are new forces in the team.”

China PR are another side undergoing evolution following the appointment of Icelandic coach Siggi Eyjolfsson, who recently endured a baptism of fire with two hefty defeats against the in-form Australia. However, the Steel Roses displayed plenty of promise with a 3-1 final-day win over Korea Republic to finish third, having opened with a 2-0 defeat against Korea DPR.