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  • Writer's pictureMatt Olsen

WAC 2022: An obvious gulf in class as the Matildas enter strange quarter-final draw

The 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup is off to a predictable and uninspiring inaugural phase. The facts are indisputable, particularly after witnessing an 18-0 win for Sam Kerr and the Matildas against Indonesia.

Japan and China also cruised through with lofty results and goals that were walked in, similarly to a training session.

Though, without the exaggeration and the distinct excitement provided by a major tournament at any level, the Asian Cup may have a very swift change in fortunes.

This view is coming off the back of witnessing the most considerable margin of victory in an AFC sanctioned Women's international.

Matildas star Sam Kerr starred with five goals in the drubbing of minnows Indonesia. (Getty Images)

The stacked and questionable quarter-final draw helps multiple impending narratives.

With its borderline farcical nature proudly on show, the AFC does have a few hotly contested games as a result.

These narratives have gone from relatively unimportant talking points for connoisseurs of the Asian game to being thrust upon a high-stakes, high-pressure environment.

FIFA has the AFC to thank for the honestly shambolic yet equally fascinating tale that this year's Asian Cup conclusion will hold.

We start by looking at the teams on the fringe of the quarter-finals. Both Vietnam and Thailand advanced from the third-placed positions in their respective groups.

This situation is quite problematic.

Unfortunately, as India's squad withdrew from their home tournament due to positive COVID-19 cases on mass, the tournament's groups were left unevenly matched across the board.

The AFC decided that whilst officially counting the results for the tournament itself, regarding the ranking of third-placed teams, neither result against the fourth-placed team would stand.

Thailand and Vietnam, facing a potential World Cup playoff and semi-finals against Japan and China, respectively, will have progressed without any points or goals scored.

That is laughable and shambolic, no matter how you put it. Yet there is more to compound this absurdity.

South Korea won two matches without conceding and is arguably the tournament's fourth-best side. But they will face the Matildas, its premier outfit.

South Korea have proven their quality in convincing wins against Myanmar and Vietnam. (The AFC)

On the Matildas, should they negotiate the complicated quarter-final scenario against South Korea, they will likely face Alen Stajcic's Philippines again in a semi-final.

Stajcic's team deserve their plaudits, despite the tournament's fickle nature. In an evenly contested match against 2018 semi-finalists Thailand, a surprise win was impressive and outstanding on multiple fronts.

They will not only be set to ensure that is the case but are likely semi-finalists, having qualified for the 2023 Women's World Cup automatically.

The achievement brings immense personal pride to the country. Stajcic, a now Australian managerial icon, also proved that everything he touches could turn to gold.

They proved the success of their recruitment strategy, having drawn the baulk of their players of Philippino heritage from the intense American college system.

This narrative around Stajcic and the team did not want to go away quickly, which highlights that variation into a more positive swing of things previously outlined.

The competitive nature will ramp up; Thailand and Vietnam, despite the controversy, will be making amends by playing off for a place at the World Cup.

This scene will be a brilliant display of Asian football, with a bold South Korea and Chinese Taipei likely to join the hunt.

All four countries take their football seriously and will significantly benefit the spectacle in 2023. Australia and New Zealand will no doubt embrace them as such.

So, to await who the Matildas face on the road to claiming only a second Asian crown, we must appreciate the many facets of this tournament, both overwhelmingly negative and surprisingly positive.

There will be a gulf in class that, for the time being, overshadows and devalues the progress of the women's game. But for all that exists, the AFC has done a service to the game, which the contenders will hopefully highlight in the latter stages of this year's edition of the Women's Asian Cup.

To read our full guide to the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup, click here.


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