• Matt Olsen

FPF's guide to the Women's Asian Cup 2022

The 20th edition of the AFC Women's Asian Cup, held across the Maharashtra region of India, will kick off on January 20.


Front Page Football will outline what to expect in the coming weeks, as the Matildas look for just their second title since joining the AFC.


Of course, the tournament doubles as World Cup qualification, though this permutation is none of Australia's concern for obvious reasons.


What is, though, is that the Tillies ensure a solid platform of steady results amid a somewhat chaotic period for the team.

 

The recognised national team of Australia had their first appearance in the inaugural tournament in 1975, and New Zealand was the winner on that occasion.


Bizarrely enough, a Western Australian XI came along to help make up the numbers in 1979, the last time the tournament called India home.


By 2006, Australia had become full members of the AFC in the modern era.


The tournament was hosted on Aussie soil, with all matches played in South Australia at Hindmarsh Stadium and the Marden Sports Complex.


Australia lost the final to China on penalties after giving up a 2-0 lead in regulation time.


2008 saw them lose a semi-final to North Korea, but by 2010, against the same opponent, the Matildas had tasted success.

Once again, the final went to penalties, but this time, at the feet of Kyah Simon, Australia won it.


By this time, the AFC decided the tournament was to be held as the FIFA Women's World Cup's qualifying tournament and to be held every four years.


In 2014, in Vietnam, the final was lost again by Australia, 1-0 to Japan.


Far more contextually, we take a look at Jordan 2018, the first soirée away from East and South Asia.


The Matildas proved very rough at times. Despite beating Thailand 5-0 in Perth whilst preparing for the tournament, the Elephants took Australia to penalties in the semi-final.


That result was partly due to a dreadful display from Mackenzie Arnold in the Matildas goal on that afternoon.


Once again, a 1-0 loss to Japan in the final meant the title had yet again evaded Australian hands.

Japan celebrate their continental title in Amman. (The AFC)


From the desert sands of Amman, we now move to the bustling streets of Mumbai and Pune, as the tournament calls India home for the first time since its early era.


Back then, the matches were only 60 minutes long.


But with the female tournament in the AFC's modern era expanding from 8 to 12 teams, the picture is now very different.


West Asia has been disinterested in the female game on cultural grounds for a long time.


But they played host to a fascinating plotline during the qualification process.


Jordan, who had just held the main tournament, lost to Iran.


Team Melli will make their debut in Group A, notorious for having all of their players adorn the Hijab with their playing kit.


Group A's most significant threat to Australia is, of course, the most successful nation in the cup's history, China.


China will fascinatingly start the campaign with a rare international appearance against the national team of Chinese Taipei.


This fixture will raise eyebrows for indisputable reasons.


The two have met on 17 occasions previously, and the Steel Roses have won every time.


Narratives aside, China will dominate the group, with India and Taipei likely fighting for the second spot.


A possible third-ranked side will make the quarter-finals.


Expect the latter two nations to come very close.


Group B is an all-ASEAN affair, headlined by the return of Alen Stajcic.


The Philippines have appointed well in typical style, having recruited Sven-Göran Eriksson for the men's tournament in 2019. The trend is staying true.

Alen Stajcic will be out to prove a point when he reunites with the Matildas in the group stage. (GOAL)


It's worth noting that with the expansion of the Women's World Cup, qualification offers five slots alongside co-hosts Australia, meaning a repechage playoff will be enforced.


Stajcic and the Philippines could qualify out of third place in Group B.


If they do, they may have a shot at a World Cup spot, as well as a quarter-final appearance.


This achievement may add longevity to Staj's role in charge of the squad, an essential note for Australian viewers.


For the Matildas, of course, it's a semi-final rematch with Thailand that will be the sternest test, and firm outsiders Indonesia complete the running.


Group C sees champions Japan placed with South Korea.


Under any circumstances, it's a mammoth fixture in the Asian game.


The Taegeuk Ladies are experiencing a rise in female football across the country.


They will firmly set their eyes on making it to Australia-New Zealand 2023.


Elsewhere in the group, Vietnam will hope to amend a poor reputation after their showing at Jordan 2018.


Myanmar is also back, having last played in 2014.


This latest edition includes an expansion of interest in the female game, a World Cup host desperate for form, a few underdog nations making their mark, and those ready to start producing a solid legacy.


It will be full of narratives and intrigue in a fashion that this tournament has lacked previously.


It's no wonder then that with an expanded tournament and a new location to boot, the AFC is hopeful of an Asian Cup that will inspire and delight many across the continent.


The tournament will be available to Australian viewers across Network 10 and Paramount +.


The Matildas first fixture against Indonesia will be screened live on January 21 at 9pm AEDT.