Paul Marcuccitti is a passionate
soccer fan from Australia who will share his views about the World Cup in this column.
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AFC Women's Asian Cup: Brief update
The AFC Women's Asian Cup has had a break with the completion of the group
phase. Japan will now face Australia in the first semi-final, and then
North Korea and China - two teams that have won the last 9 Asian Women's
Championships between them - play in the other semi.
There have been some surprises in this tournament and further evidence
that Australia's entry into Asia is making an impact in this
Australia won its semi-final spot at the expense of South Korea, and that
means that South Korea will now miss the finals of the 2007 Women's Asian
No big deal? Well, the South Koreans qualified for 2003 after finishing
third in that year's Asian Women's Championship. They are the first of the
2003 qualifiers (anywhere in the world) to fail in their attempt to reach
the 2007 tournament. Australia's entry means that the big 4 - China, North
Korea, Japan, South Korea - is now the big 5, and 5 won't fit into the 3.5
places allocated to Asian teams for next year's Women's World Cup.
China is hosting next year's finals so it qualifies automatically. Two of
the three teams joining China in the AFC semi-finals will also qualify but
one will have to play off against the third team from CONCACAF. (This also
happened in 2003 with Japan, which finished fourth in the Asian
Championship, playing Mexico, which finished third in the Women's Gold
Cup. That time Japan scored a 4-2 aggregate victory and claimed a place at
The loser of the Japan-Australia semi will hope that China defeats North
Korea in the other semi-final because that would give the Japan-Australia
loser a second chance at qualifying for the Women's World Cup. If the
match for third place includes China, it becomes as irrelevant as any
other match for third place and Japan or Australia would need to go
through the CONCACAF playoff.
But I'm not going to put any money on North Korea playing in the third
place match because the evidence from this tournament suggests that it is
the favourite for its clash with China. The speedy North Koreans finished
top of Group B with 3 wins and a scoreless draw. In that draw against
Australia, it was the Koreans that looked more dangerous and had better
After losing 0-4 to Australia on the tournament's opening day, the
now-departed South Koreans needed a win in their final group match against
North Korea to reach the semi-finals but North Korean substitute Kim Yong
Ae scored the only goal of the game.
The other two Group B teams simply weren't in the same class. Thailand
defeated Myanmar but then conceded 25 goals in its other three matches.
The Myanmar team actually did better against the group's heavyweights -
midfielder Aye Nandar Hlaing even scored a memorable goal against South
Korea - but it's still going home with no points.
Group A has been notable for the way Japan has dominated it. In recent
years China has lost its Asian supremacy but few observers would have
expected that it would be Japan qualifying for the semi-finals with a 100%
record in this group (scoring 17 goals in the process) while China
struggled to find the back of the net.
Vietnam and Chinese Taipei, the other two teams in Group A, did not mount
a genuine challenge, yet I watched almost disbelievingly as the Steel
Roses relied on goals from young star Ma Xiaoxu to labour to a 2-0 win
When China and Japan played each other, both had already qualified for the
semi-finals so you have to be a little careful about reading too much into
Japan's 1-0 win. Nevertheless, the Japanese were clearly the better team
in earlier group games - they look really comfortable in possession.
The Japan-Australia semi could be a real classic. The Japanese would have
to be favoured but there shouldn't be a lot between the teams. The
Matildas will be encouraged by their strong performances against the
Earlier I mentioned that North Korea and China have won the last 9 Asian
Women's Championships. This will also be their sixth meeting in either an
Asian semi-final or Final (and all of those meetings have been in the last
13 years). What more do you need to know about their upcoming encounter?
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