Sunday 02 April 2017, 15:43

The road to France starts here

  • 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup Jordan 2018 qualifiers run from 3-12 April

  • Winners of groups qualify for AFC Women's Asian Cup Jordan 2018

  • Matches take place in Korea DPR, Palestine, Tajikistan and Vietnam

Asian teams begin their long journey to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ on Monday as 18 sides, plus Jordan, battle it out in four groups to secure one of the four remaining places at the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Despite qualifying automatically as hosts, Jordan will contest the qualifiers to gain valuable match experience. The five best teams at the Women’s Asian Cup will book their tickets to the biggest tournament of all in France.

Heavyweights collide In Group A, Jordan can concentrate fully on building on their strengths and analysing their weaknesses. The West Asian side, who also competed at the 2014 edition of the competition, face Bahrain, Iraq, Tajikistan, Philippines and United Arab Emirates. Should Jordan finish top of their group, the runners-up will qualify for the 2018 Women’s Asian Cup. “We have an exceptional team,” said Noura Al-Mazrouei in an interview with ahead of her first Women’s Asian Cup qualification campaign with UAE. “Thanks to the wonderful job done by those responsible for women’s football in the Emirates, we have lifted our game to another level in recent years. All of the players are excited about the challenge ahead of us and keen to return home with a starting place at the Asian Cup.”

Currently tenth in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, Korea DPR are clear favourites in Group B. Nevertheless, the three-time Asian champions face a considerable obstacle on their route to the top in the shape of Korea Republic. Coach Yoon Dukyeo’s side finished second at the Cyprus Cup in March, having previously secured a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Women’s Asian Cup. Another team worth looking out for are Hong Kong, who clinched third place in 1979 and have been runners-up twice, in 1981 and 1989.

Fresh from making their FIFA Women’s World Cup debut in 2015, Thailand have a good chance of topping Group C after both Lebanon and Guam withdrew from the qualifying tournament. Their greatest rivals will be Chinese Taipei, who won the competition in 1977, 1979 and 1981.

Excitement also awaits in Group D. While Vietnam will be aiming to qualify for their eighth Women’s Asian Cup, Singapore will also be determined to leave their mark on proceedings. “The team have been steadily preparing for qualification by playing several friendlies,” explained Singapore head coach Chen Cai Ying. “Although we have a young squad with an average age of 22.52 and will meet stiff opposition in Vietnam and Myanmar, we will give it our best and try to improve on our previous performances against these sides.”

Qualifying groups at a glance: Group A: Jordan, Philippines, Bahrain, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan Group B: Korea Republic, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong, India, Korea DPR Group C: Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Palestine Group D: Vietnam, Myanmar, Iran, Syria, Singapore