Seven teams will this week battle for the final two places at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup – India, with Kyrgyz Republic and Bahrain taking centre stage in the race to the Finals.
With 10 of a total 12 India 2022 berths already secured, Bishkek and Manama will provide the backdrop as teams representing the full length and breadth of the Asian continent look to book their ticket to January’s Finals.
The winners of Group A, in Bahrain, and the Kyrgyz Republic-based Group D will advance to the tournament proper, where Asia’s best sides will compete for continental glory starting January 20.
The AFC Women’s Asian Cup also serves as Asia’s qualification path to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the top five finishers at India 2022 to join co-hosts Australia at the global Finals.
Group A: Three-way battle in Bahrain
Opportunity knocks this week in Bahrain, where three teams have the chance to end long absences from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Finals.
Laos and group hosts Bahrain have never appeared in Asian women’s football’s grandest stage, while Chinese Taipei haven’t qualified since 2008, making every point crucial at Khalifa Sports City Stadium.
Ranked 40th in the world and eighth in Asia, Chinese Taipei loom as the favourites ahead of 85th-ranked Bahrain and Laos, who have entered the qualifying stage for the first time.
Both Bahrain and Chinese Taipei have warmed up for the qualifiers with matches against India, with Bahrain suffering a 5-0 defeat against the AFC Women’s Asian Cup hosts, while Chinese Taipei were beaten by a solitary goal in their match.
Group D: East meets West in Central Asia
The Kyrgyz Republic capital Bishkek will welcome teams from both sides of the continent as Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Guam, and Lebanon vie for a ticket to the Finals.
Ranked 46th in the world and 10th in Asia and having qualified for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup as recently as 2014, Myanmar will go in as favourites ahead of three Matchdays at Dolen Omurzakov Stadium.
One game away from reaching Jordan 2018 and having advanced to the final group stage of Asian qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Tin Myint Aung’s side are strong and highly experienced, but they may be tested by Lebanon.
The Cedars have enjoyed rapid improvement in women’s youth football – winning the regional WAFF Championship at the U-15 and U-18 levels and several of the stars of those successful teams have graduated to the senior squad for these matches.
Elsewhere, Houriya Taheri’s United Arab Emirates side will look to benefit from a solid build-up including warm-up matches against the Maldives, Seychelles, India and Tunisia, while Guam have entered the qualification stage for the first time in 16 years.
Unlike UAE and Lebanon, Guam have appeared at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Finals before, making group stage appearances at four successive tournaments from 1997 to 2003.