Asian hopefuls eyeing U-20 Women's World Cup berths
Eight teams compete for three U-20 Women's World Cup berths
Holders Japan eye a record sixth title
Korea DPR looking to prolific Kim Kyongyong for goals
With the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2020 kicking off in nine months' time, Asia's qualifying campaign for the global finals commences this Sunday in Chonburi, Thailand. Eight of the continent's top teams will do battle against each other in the 2019 AFC U-19 Women's Championship, with the top three progressing to next year's showpiece.
2019 AFC U-19 Women's Championship
(27 October – 9 November)
Group A: Thailand, Korea DPR, Australia, Vietnam
Group B: Japan, China PR, Korea Republic, Myanmar
Topping the list of favourites are holders Japan, who enter the campaign targeting not only a place at the U-20 Women's World Cup next year, but also retaining their title. Having lifted the Asian trophy five times out of the past nine, coach Futoshi Ikeda's charges have their sights set firmly on a record sixth title.
Also keen on lifting the championship are Korea Republic, the tournament's second most successful side who have twice prevailed on the Asian scene. Under the guidance of coach Hur Jungjae, they travel to Thailand aiming to complete an Asian treble this time around.
And no-one should underestimate Korea DPR, two-time U-20 Women's World Cup winners who have invariably been a force to be reckoned with on the continental scene. Having tasted their maiden success in 2007, coach Song Sunggwon's side arrive in Chonburi determined to end their 12-year wait for a second title.
The same can also be said of China PR, whose last and only success dates back to 2006 when they edged Korea DPR 1-0 in the final, with former AFC Women’s Player of the Year Ma Xiaoxu scoring the tournament-winning goal. Coached by former Korea Republic international Park Taeha, the Chinese enter the competition aiming to recoup Asian bragging rights.
Having finished among the top three just once - in 2006 - Leah Blayney's Australia will be hoping to break new ground. Blayney played for the Young Matildas at the 2004 and 2006 U-20 Women's World Cup.
Hosts Thailand, meanwhile, will look to their home support to help them book passage to their second U-20 Women's World Cup, having debuted on the global scene as hosts at Thailand 2004. Elsewhere, both Vietnam and Myanmar enter the campaign seeking to qualify for their first ever U-20 Women's World Cup.
Players to watch
Japan will look to their formidable attacking line of Haruka Osawa and Yuzuki Yamamoto, both of whom figured at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Uruguay, where they reached the last eight. Korea DPR, for their part, can count on the phenomenal goalscoring form of Kim Kyongyong who finished as both the top scorer and most valuable player at the 2017 AFC U-16 Women's Championship.
Boosting China PR's hopes are a trio of experienced players who featured at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018: Dou Jiaxing and Wang Linlin shoring up the defence and Zhang Linyan bossing the midfield. Having garnered seven goals each during the qualifying for the Asian finals, attacking duo Mary Fowler (pictured above) and Princess Ibini-Isei shoulder the goalscoring hopes for Australia.