- Holders Korea DPR aim to retain Asian title
- The top-three finishers advance to Uruguay 2018
- The Asian finals feature three current or former world champions
Less than 11 months after they lifted the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup trophy in Jordan, Korea DPR will seek to qualify for the global finals for a sixth successive time as the preliminaries begin in Asia.
The continent’s three berths at next year’s U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay will be determined at the AFC U-16 Women's Championship, which sees eight teams - divided into two groups of four – battle it out. The top-two finishers from each group advance to the semi-finals, the winners of which will compete for the Asian title having already secured their World Cup places. The remaining spot at Uruguay 2018 is then decided by a third-place play-off.
As reigning Asian and world champions, Korea DPR enter the tournament motivated to retain the title to and equal the record haul of three-time winners Japan. However, both the Japanese and 2009 winners Korea Republic are capable of mounting a serious challenge, while Australia and China PR also travel to Thailand with big ambitions.
Group A: Thailand, China PR, Korea Republic, Laos
Group B: Korea DPR, Japan, Australia, Bangladesh
Laos go into their maiden AFC U16 Women's Championship as the tournament's only debutants.
This is the second time Thailand will host the AFC U-16 Women's Championship, having also staged the tournament in 2009. They will hope to fare better than on that occasion, when they failed to progress past the group stage and missed out on a World Cup spot.
Four of the past five U-17 Women's World Cups have been won by three of the teams competing in Thaialand. The most notable are Korea DPR, who won the inaugural edition back in 2008 before re-capturing the global laurels at Jordan 2016. But Korea Republic and Japan have also claimed the world title once apiece, in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
— #FIFAWWC (@FIFAWWC) October 26, 2016
A quartet of teams, namely China PR, Japan, Korea Republic and Thailand, have participated in each of the six editions of the AFC U-16 Women's Championship since 2005.
A goalkeeping legend, China coach Gao Hong won six consecutive senior AFC Women's Asian Cup titles with Steel Roses between 1989 and 1999. Besides her managerial role, the former New York Power custodian provides the players with inspiration as an icon of the women’s game.
One of the tournament's players to watch is Australia forward Sofia Sakalis, who finished top scorer in last year's qualifiers for the AFC U-16 finals with 11 goals.
What they said
"Our goal is clear: to qualify to the U-17 World Cup in Uruguay next year. We are determined to live up to expectations, whatever difficulties are facing us. Meanwhile, I hope the players will make good progress (by competing against the world's best players) and become cornerstones of the national team in future."
China PR coach Gao Hong
"We are aiming to become the Asian champions but, more importantly, we should first secure our place at next year's U-17 World Cup. This is a goal that we must achieve. Our group rivals are strong teams but we will focus on our football and find our winning form."
Japan coach Naoki Kusunose