Thursday 30 September 2021, 05:42

IR Iran make history as sextet keep Women’s World Cup hopes alive

  • Six teams won through to India 2022

  • IR Iran sealed maiden progression to continental finals

  • Indonesia ended long wait to seal return

The opening matches in the qualifying campaign for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup came to a close on Wednesday with six sides progressing to join hosts India, Japan, Australia and China PR at January's continental finals, which doubles as qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Australia/New Zealand™.

Only two groups are left to be decided in October where eight teams will battle for the remaining two berths to complete the line-up. The Asian championships have been expanded to 12 teams for the first time.

France 2019 finalists Korea Republic and Thailand eased through, each with a clean sweep of their respective groups. The same can be said of Vietnam, who won their pool with two resounding victories.

IR Iran made history by qualifying for the continental finals for the first time, while Indonesia sealed their long-awaited return with victories against Singapore. Elsewhere, Philippines battled hard to win their group at the expense of Hong Kong and Nepal. Join as we take a closer look at the action.

Qualified teams:

India (hosts), Japan, Australia, China PR (Top three teams in the tournament's previous edition) (Teams marked * progressed to India 2022 as group winners) Group B: Vietnam*, Tajikistan, Maldives, Afghanistan (Withdrew) Group C: Indonesia*, Singapore, Iraq (Withdrew), Korea DPR (Withdrew) Group E: Korea Republic*, Uzbekistan, Mongolia Group F: Philippines*, Hong Kong, Nepal Group G: Iran*, Jordan, Bangladesh Group H: Thailand*, Malaysia, Palestine Remaining fixtures: (18-24 October) Group A: Chinese Taipei, Bahrain, Laos, Turkmenistan Group D: Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Guam, Lebanon

Vietnam women team players celebrate after sealing qualification for the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup

Memorable moments

Breakthrough for Iran Iran goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei grabbed the headlines by twice denying Jordanian spot-kicks to help her side win the decisive second match on penalties. The victory, coupled with their opening 5-0 rout of Bangladesh, saw the Iranians seal maiden Women's Asian Cup qualification. Vietnam the best scorers Vietnam ran riot throughout their campaign as they sealed progression for their ninth AFC Women's Asian Cup in style. In the process, the Southeast Asians fired sixteen unanswered goals past Maldives in the opener before trouncing Tajikistan 7-0. Unsurprisingly, the team finished as the tournament's top-scorers with 23 goals. Late drama Philippines had to twice battle from behind to clinch hard-fought victories as they sealed progression. The Malditas trailed Nepal for 80 minutes but Tahnai Annis struck in the final minute of regulation time, before Camille Wilson grabbed the match-winner in stoppage-time. They left it late again in the decider against Hong Kong, this time Chandler McDaniel coming to the rescue by scoring the late match-winning goal. Indonesia's return With both Iraq and Korea DPR withdrawing, Indonesia progressed by twice defeating Singapore 1-0. The solitary-goal victories ended the country's 32-year drought as they sealed a powerful return to the continental finals. Thailand's deep bench Thailand made light work of their opposition, beating Malaysia 4-0 before romping past hosts Palestine 7-0 to progress. In fact, coach Miyo Okamoto took the chance to take stock of the team, fielding two largely different lines-up over the two matches. This tactical change, however, did little to dent the team’s firepower as they seek a third successive World Cup qualification.

The players

Phan Hai Yen proved the biggest revelation for Vietnam in this campaign following her notable goal-scoring form. The 26-year-old finished as the tournament top-scorer with eight goals, including managing a six-goal haul against Maldives. Korea Republic's Moon Mira, too, showcased her predatory talents by scoring five times. All the more impressive was that the 29-year-old midfielder proved the team's super-sub, twice coming off bench to help her side to overwhelming victories. Philippines Tahnai Annis played a pivotal role as her side battled through. The American-born 32-year-old midfielder was on target in each game as they made through with narrow wins.

Did you know?

The top five nations at India 2022 (aside from Australia) will qualify for the world stage, while the next two best sides will advance to the new inter-continental playoff.