Korea to face Japan in final group match at Asian Cup
The Korean women's football team will face Japan at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, India on Thursday in their final group stage game of the 2022 Women's Asian Cup.
Both Korea and Japan have already qualified for the quarterfinals at the Asian Cup with six points each, with Japan taking the top spot in Group C on goal difference. Thursday's game will determine who goes through to the quarterfinals in first place, setting up a far easier route through the knockout stage.
With only three groups of four teams competing at the Asian Cup, the two best third-place teams will also advance to the quarterfinals. The winner of Group C will take on the third-place team from either Group A or B, while the runner-up from Group C will take on the winner of Group B, which is likely to be Australia.
But that easier path to the semifinals is not going to be easy to reach. Japan are a formidable opponent and history suggests that Korea will struggle to best them. In 31 games between the two teams, Korea have won just four.
In the Asian Cup so far there is little to separate the two teams. Korea and Japan both beat Vietnam 3-0, but Japan beat Myanmar 5-0 to Korea's 2-0. But the real challenge will be in each other, rather than the lower-ranked teams.
Korea, at No. 18, and Japan, at No. 13, are two of the highest-ranked teams in the Asian Cup. The only team ranked higher is Australia, at No. 11, while China sits just behind Korea at No. 19.
Korea's performance at the Asian Cup has been led by Chelsea's Ji So-yun, with three goals so far. Ji, Korea's all-time top goal scorer across both genders and all competitions, is joined on the national squad by the Taeguk Ladies' two other Women's Super League stars: Tottenham Hotspur's Cho So-hyun and Brighton & Hove's Lee Geum-min, who is Korea's only other goal scorer in the tournament.
The Taeguk Ladies have also been battling with a Covid-19 outbreak after a number of players and coaches tested positive after landing in India last week. Korea has still been able to field 13 players, the minimum required to continue competing, so the outbreak doesn't appear to have impacted the team too badly.
Covid-19 has already claimed one team at the Asian Cup, with host nation India forced to withdraw after they were unable to put together a 13-player squad.
Korea will take on Japan at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, India at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, or at 5 p.m. in Korea. Both teams will advance to the quarterfinals, to be played at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, or 5 p.m. in Korea.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]