Asian Cup 2018 explainer: teams, venues, star players

The Westfield Matildas will learn their group stage opponents for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup when the draw is held this Saturday night.

Alen Stajcic’s side will be heavily fancied to go all the way in Jordan after streamrolling through a record-breaking 2017.

But which challenges will Australia need to navigate in order to be crowned champions for the second time?

TEAMS

The tournament will be contested by eight nations, split into two groups of four.

Hosts Jordan are the least experienced as they have only appeared at one previous tournament, finishing bottom of Group A in 2014.

Japan prevailed on that occasion, edging Australia – now the AFC’s top-ranked nation – 1-0 in the final.

That was, surprisingly, Japan’s first ever triumph. China PR dominated the tournament with seven straight wins between 1986 and 1999.

The other teams to have qualified are South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines.

Japan Asian Cup
Japan are reigning champions.

VENUES

Amman, the capital of Jordan, is due to spread the hosting of all games between two venues.

One is the Amman International Stadium, which was built in 1964 and was the scene of last year’s FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final.

The other is the nearby King Abdullah II Stadium, home to the Al-Wehdat Sports Club and able to fit 13,000 people.

Amman International Stadium
Amman International Stadium

STAR PLAYERS

While the Westfield Matildas will take plenty of their own big names to the tournament, they will come up against some headline acts in April.

Japan captain Saki Kumagai was one of two players Sam Kerr beat to the title of AFC Women’s Player of the Year last week and it will be fascinating to see Kerr go head-to-head with the Lyon defender.

South Korea star Ji So-yun is one of few other players currently plying her trade abroad, lighting it up for English outfit Chelsea.

The midfielder has almost 100 international caps and is her country’s all-time top goalscorer.

Jordan, meanwhile, will have their hopes pinned on Stephanie Al-Naber, a goalscoring midielder who netted nine times in just five games in qualifying.

Saki Kumagai
Australia will need to find a way past Saki Kumagai.

 

Source  :  My Football Website

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