Asian glory and World Cup berths on the line in India

  • AFC Women’s Asian Cup kicks off in India tomorrow

  • Five automatic FIFA Women’s World Cup slots up for grabs

  • Japan aiming for a third straight continental crown

The oldest continental competition in women’s football returns tomorrow for a 20th edition. But for all its long history, never have the stakes at an AFC Women’s Asian Cup been as high as they will be in India over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

This is to be the biggest Women’s Asian Cup yet, with a newly expanded line-up of teams and an unprecedented number of prizes to compete for. After all, besides the Asian title itself, places at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ are up for grabs – with more teams than ever in with a realistic chance of making it through.

The key numbers

  • 12 teams will compete in India – four more than in recent editions of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

  • 25 Matches will be played over 17 days across three venues: Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune.

  • 3 groups have been drawn, with the top two from each section advancing to the quarter-finals, where they will be joined by the two best third-place finishers.

  • 5 automatic slots at the next FIFA Women’s World Cup are on offer. With Australia qualifying automatically as co-hosts, the sixth-ranked team at the Asian Women’s Cup will earn a spot at the global finals if the Matildas finish in the top five.

  • 2 further places are on offer at the ten-team inter-confederation play-off competition, from which the final three participants at Australia & New Zealand 2023 will be determined.

The favourites

Japan: The Nadeshiko have their sights set on a third successive Women’s Asian Cup title, having topped the podium in 2014 and 2018. Despite landing in a tough group that includes Korea Republic, Myanmar and a highly rated Vietnam side, the former world champions will be expected to compete for the trophy once again.

Australia: The Matildas are the highest-ranked of the 12 teams participating and come into the tournament buoyed by an impressive run to Women’s Olympic Football Tournament semi-finals. Having lost out in the Asian Cup final to Japan four years ago, can Sam Kerr and Co go one better this time?

Korea Republic: Despite their poor historical record in this tournament – in which they have yet to even reach the final, never mind lift the trophy – the Taegeuk Nangja have more than enough individual talent within their ranks to rewrite those statistics and mount a genuine challenge.

China PR: With eight titles overall, the Steel Roses are by some distance the most successful team in Women’s Asian Cup history. Although the most recent of those conquests came in 2006, they have finished third at each of the two most recent editions and have a team that should once again be in the hunt for medals.

The quotes

"We always seem to face Japan at the wrong moments, but we should no longer be afraid of them. Our ultimate goal is to win the trophy. I have accomplished everything at club level, but I've never won a title for the national team even after all these years." Ji Soyun, Korea Republic midfielder

"We haven’t won [the Asian Cup] since 2010, and I think all of us girls know that we need to win this. We know that we can do it if we play our best football and bring what we brought during the Olympics to every game here. Off the back of our Olympic campaign, coming fourth, I think there’s a little bit of expectation for us to win this Asian Cup. That expectation is there and it’s good for us [because] we want to win tournaments, we want to win trophies. We want to put that pressure on ourselves. " Ellie Carpenter, Australia defender

"I said from the beginning that reaching the quarter-finals is our first target and also, we think, a realistic target. If we reach that stage, anything can happen because it’s then knockout football and everybody, all teams, will play under pressure.” Thomas Dennerby, India coach

"I think that a lot of people are definitely going to look at us a certain way because of that match (the 13-0 loss to USA at France 2019), and that might help us. This tournament will help us prove why we want to go to the next World Cup. I think it will be challenging, but I think it will be exciting for us to be able to change people’s minds." Miranda Nild, Thailand forward

"We want to snag one of those World Cup spots and we’re doing everything we possibly can. I’ve got a lot of hope and a lot of belief. I’ve been to two Asian Cups now and I know that, if we put our best foot forward, this team is capable of achieving our dream.” Alen Stajcic, Phillipines coach