China eye eighth title, South Korea maiden triumph in WAC 2022 final
The Steel Roses last won the continental trophy in 2006.
The AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 final on Sunday promises to be a spectacular affair as China PR and South Korea set their eyes on the coveted trophy. China PR have won the tournament eight times previously while South Korea are seeking their first title and both are geared up for a meeting between two traditional rivals at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
China PR, led by five-time AFC Women’s Asian Cup winner Shui Qingxia, will head into the decider with a superior head to head but South Korea head coach Colin Bell is confident that will count for nothing on Sunday. “The mood in the team is great, it’s a good feeling to exceed expectations,” said Bell. “The girls are prepared to go the distance and play 120 minutes. Our mental and physical state is good and we’re ready to go.
“Thankfully we have no injuries and will put in our best 11 in the final. We have depth in our squad so we’re flexible to make changes and I’m sure China PR are the same.”
South Korea have not defeated China PR in their last seven meetings but Bell said that won’t be a factor as his players are determined to lift the AFC Women’s Asian Cup for the first time.
“I don’t see us not having a win against China PR a problem. Maybe it is a problem for China PR but It’s time now for us to put an end to that (winless streak) and we are ready to put this behind us. We don’t want to think about these figures, if we did we wouldn’t be here.”
If anything, Bell said South Korea’s heartbreaking loss to China PR in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers has helped them mature.“The team was in a different place in 2020 (Olympic Qualifiers), we had very few matches and it was difficult for the team to get games going. Despite losing to China PR on aggregate, we took in our stride and persevered. We have improved so much as a team since last year. We have some really good players in our squad but I don’t have to teach Ji So-yun how to play, the aim here is to increase the endurance, fitness and confidence of these players.”
Having fought back to hold two-time defending champions Japan in the group stage and defeating Australia in the quarter-finals, the Englishman said his players are well prepared for China PR.
“This South Korea team has a good future ahead of them. They have instilled good values, principles and are highly proactive as players – both tactically and individually. They have the confidence to start any match and it’s in their DNA. I believe they are well prepared.“We have reached the final and now we want to take it one step further. We don’t know what the outcome will be tomorrow but we want to instill the belief that anyone who plays against South Korea should take us seriously.”
China PR will also expect to be taken seriously after their stunning win over defending champions Japan in the semi-finals, which head coach Shui believes will inspire her team to clinch the nation’s first AFC Women’s Asian Cup title in 16 years.“Facing South Korea will be difficult. We have had just a short time to prepare and make adjustments, not just on the game but mentally as well.“There is no point thinking about past records against South Korea. In a final, there will be many different scenarios played out and we will have to be prepared. Perseverance equals success and maybe, there might be some unforeseeable circumstances but we will be prepared.”
Shui knows all about lifting titles, having won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup five times as a player – success which was achieved due to the self belief of the China PR players of then and the 55-year-old wants the cast of India 2022 to be equally confident.
“South Korea is a strong opponent and an outstanding team in Asia. They have made plenty of improvements in their game over the years and have some outstanding players. I played in plenty of matches as a player. All I can say is that the players should all have the self belief and confidence to play in the final. They should just perform at their best.”
“We gained plenty of confidence as a team after qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was an achievement that was only possible because of all the hard work from the coaching staff, especially those in China PR. “We must work harder to reach new heights. This is a good start for us. A new beginning.”