The first round of WAC fixtures got underway on Thursday and Friday, with some surprise results, important draws and emphatic wins by the competition favourites. There's still two matches left in the Group Stage for teams to make a push to secure a place in the quarter-finals. But before the second round of games begins, let's review the action from round one!
Match 1 Results
China 4 - 0 Taiwan
The Steel Roses got the tournament underway in a dominant display over their neighbours Taiwan. Despite not playing any international friendlies in the lead up to the competition, China showed no signs of lacking match fitness or preparation. They started the game quickly, pressurising the Taiwan backline into making a defensive error which allowed them to break through and win a penalty, when Linyan Zhang was pushed off the ball. Wang Shuang made no mistake from the penalty spot to dispatch her first of the evening. China made it 2-0 in the 9th minute when Gao Chen whipped in a delicious ball from the right hand side, which captain Wang Shanshan met with a fantastic header that ricocheted in and off the inside of the post. The Steel Roses almost made it 3-0 moments later, when Wang Xiaoxue's header from a corner went narrowly wide. After half time, China continued with their relentless attack. In the 54th minute, Wang Shuang turned from goalscorer to assist maker, when she played in a lovely through ball into the box for Zhang Xin to run onto. Xin had brilliant composure to hold the ball up and calmly slot it into the bottom left corner. To Taiwan's credit they did try to get back into the game, however China's strength and attack continued to prevail. To finish the game off, Zhang Xin crossed the ball into the box from the left hand side, which should have been easily cleared by the Taiwan defence. However, two misjudgements allowed the ball to trickle past the defenders and to the feet of Wang Shuang, who made a wonderful drop of the shoulder to turn the ball past the defender and send it into the back of the net to make it 4-0.
India 0 - 0 Iran
This was a game in which India must have wondered how they didn't score, let alone win. With 24 shots, 65% of possession and 411 passes, the Blue Tigresses did everything but put the ball in the back of the net. But, all credit has to be given to debutants Iran, who made it incredibly difficult for them, with the defence putting in a stalwart performance and goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei having an exceptional game. Despite India's dominance, it was actually Iran who had the better chances in the opening 15 minutes, with Negin Zandi involved in both attempts. Her first, a header which came back into play off the crossbar and her second, a shot that just went narrowly wide of the post. India began to come into the game for the remainder of the half, with their own opportunities in front of goal. However, they failed to capitalise and despite situations where they were one on one with the keeper, the India players sent the ball blazing over the bar. It was all India in the second half, constantly running at the Iranian backline which was struggling to stand firm at times. Again, the Blue Tigresses had chances, but again they struck them wayward. Towards the latter stages of the game, India's Grace Dangmei headed the ball down towards goal from about 5 yards out, destined to go in. But somehow....somehow Zohreh Koudaei managed to keep the ball out of the net with a splendid save on the goal line, making sure that both teams shared the point.
Japan 5 - 0 Myanmar
Japan showed why they are considered one of the competition favourites when they got things underway against Myanmar. Just in the 4th minute alone, Japan should have been 1-0 up when Mina Tanaka met a cross into the box and headed the ball off the crossbar. But it wouldn't be until the 22nd minute when they would finally see the ball in the back of the net. A brilliant and deep ball forward from Japan goalkeeper Yamashita, found Yui Hasegawa on the right hand side, who took the ball towards the corner before sending in a wonderful cross for Riko Ueki to meet with a diving header. Things quietened down for a while after this and it wasn't until Japan came out after half time, that they really began to show why they are the reigning champions. In the 47th minute, the Nadeshiko scored a goal through Yui Hasegawa after a wonderful passage of play, which involved one touch passing and brilliant hold up play. Moments later Japan made it 3-0, when Hikaru Naomoto lined up to take a freekick from just outside the box. Naomoto beautifully lifted the ball over the wall and sent the ball into the top left corner, beating the keeper at her near post. From here, Japan started to get into rhythm of things and had some real flow to their game, playing some wonderful passing football. Yui Narumiya received the ball just outside of the box and struck it superbly to sent it into the bottom left corner. Then just before the end of the game, Japan made it 5-0 when Yui Hasegawa received the ball inside the box and chipped the ball over the onrushing Myanmar keeper to finish the match off. Despite the 5-0 loss, credit has to be given to goalkeeper May Zin Nwe for Myanmar. Were it not for some of her spectacular saves, the scoreline would may well have ended up in double figures.
Australia 18 - 0 Indonesia
What more can be said, other than the fact it was a completely dominant and empathic display by Australia. The gulf in class was evident to see on the pitch, with Indonesia barely able to get out of their half most of the game. There are far too many goals for me to provide detail and a description for, but some of the key points of this game and a player who performed sensationally was none other than Sam Kerr. With 5 goals to her name, she not only equalled Tim Cahill's record as Australia's record goal scorer, with 50 goals, but she also surpassed him, ending the game with 54 international goals. Becoming Australia's top goal scorer out of both the men and womens teams. Other key performances, came in the form of Emily Van Edmond, who received a hattrick for her efforts and 21 year old Ellie Carpenter acquiring a brace.
For those that aren't familiar with women's football in Asia, Indonesia did only establish a women's football league in 2019, but that was quickly abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far for these women to play against one of the World's best football teams and keep fighting despite losing 9-0 at half time and 18-0 at the end, is testament to their character. Of course, it would be easy to focus on the negatives and how as viewers it was difficult to watch. But, the other side that people didn't see was the Indonesian players lining up at the end of the match to get photos with the talented Sam Kerr, all with smiles on their faces. For those Indonesian players, it was an honour to play against the likes of Australia and the players on it's team. These results, no matter how perceivably 'bad', are opportunities for these women to play against the world best and learn. They don't get competitive football like this, so how are they meant to get better, other than playing against and learning from the best. Following on from the game, Australian manager Gustavsson was questioned about his strong lineup against the competitions lowest ranking team and he stated that he wanted to show respect to the Indonesian team by fielding his best team. But also as a statement of intent for the rest of the teams in the tournament.
Thailand 0 - 1 Philippines
Heading into this game, Thailand were the side which most would have favoured to get a result, particularly given the fact that the Philippines haven't beaten Thailand in their previous 12 attempts. The Philippines thought they had opened up the scoring in the 13th minute when Chandler McDaniel crossed the ball into the box for Katrina Guillou to volley perfectly into the net. However, the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Guillou almost scored again in the 29th minute when she burst through the Thai defence and made an audacious attempt to strike the ball over the keeper whilst falling and shooting from outside the box. Only to see her shot beat Thai goalkeeper, Waraporn Boonsing, but also ping up and out off the crossbar. Coming out in the second half, the pendulum shifted and it was Thailand who were pressing for a goal. Both sides continued to attack, witth equal opportunities in front of goal, but none were clinical enough to take the lead. Just as the game was drawing to a close Chandler McDaniel received the ball from about 25 yards out and held it up well to fend off the challenging defenders. McDaniel managed to turn and hit an ambitious shot from distance which lacked fire power and real intent, however Thailand's goalkeeper was about to have a moment to forget, when she fumbled the ball into the net in the 81st minute. Guaranteeing Philippines the 1-0 win and the three points
South Korea 3 - 0 Vietnam
Korea opened the scoring only moments after the first whistle, when Choe Yu-ri pounced on a defensive mistake. Choe cut the ball back for Lee Geum-min to strike, but she had the intelligence to leave the ball and allow it to roll to the feet of Ji So-Yun, who struck the ball first time and watched it fly into the bottom left corner. Just when Vietnam tried to mount an urgent response, Korea made it 2-0 in the 7th minute when a ball was whipped into the box from the right wing only for Vietnamese defender, Trần Thị Phương Thảo, to turn the ball into her own net whilst under pressure from Lee Geum-min. For the remainder of the game, Korea dominated on the pitch and in the stats, registering 25 shots, 73% possession, 557 passes and a passing accuracy of 82%. The Taegeuk Ladies were denied by the crossbar, the post and the brilliant saves of Vietnam goalkeeper, Kim Thanh Trần Thị. But despite their best efforts to quell the Korean pressure, in the 81st minute a penalty was awarded against Vietnam for handball, in what was quite a harsh call in my opinion, as Chương Thị Kiều's was on the floor with her arms close to her body and the ball was struck against her from about two yards away. Regardless of opinion, the penalty was awarded and none other than Chelsea player and Korea captain Ji So-Yun stepped up to make it 3-0.
Match 2 Fixtures
Iran v China | Sunday 23rd January at 10am
Taiwan v India | Sunday 23rd January at 2pm
Myanmar v South Korea | Monday 24th January at 8am
Philippines v Australia | Monday 24th January at 10am
Indonesia v Thailand | Monday 24th January at 12pm
Vietnam v Japan | Monday 24th January at 2pm
How to watch
Despite it looking like FreeSports were going to show all games of the competition live and for free on their channel, website and app. That has not been the case. Whilst showing the opening day fixtures, Friday's games were not shown and there are no games being shown on Sunday either. Unfortunately, unless you have a VPN, there are no other ways to watch the games. However, Monday's fixtures will be shown on FreeSports and highlights of the games are quickly uploaded to the AFC's YouTube channel
For those of you outside of the UK. The AFC website has documented which broadcasters are showing the games here: https://www.the-afc.com/en/national/afc_womens_asian_cup/where_to_watch.html