AFC Women's Asian Cup: Defending champion Japan faces Korea to decide group topper

Korea would be looking to prevail over the two-time defending champion with head coach Colin Bell having worked on the mistakes identified in the win against Myanmar on Monday.

Both teams have secured six points after two wins each against Vietnam and Myanmar, with Japan ahead on goal difference.   -  AP

A thriller is on the cards as defending champion Japan and another continental heavyweight Korea face off in their final group C match of the AFC Women's Asian Cup on Thursday.

Both teams have secured six points after two wins each against Vietnam and Myanmar, with Japan ahead on goal difference and only needs to avoid defeat at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex to top the group.

Korea, however, would be looking to prevail over the two-time defending champion with head coach Colin Bell having worked on the mistakes identified in the win against Myanmar on Monday.

"We made a few unforced errors when going forward. When trying to play as expansive as possible that transition will have to be excellent, the organisation when we're attacking has to be very good. We've got a couple of situations where our organisations were a little bit off," he said.

"For the game against Japan, they've got much more quality and if we give them these kinds of invitations, they will take them. So our transition into defence has to be much faster. When we're attacking, we need to make sure we do not lose our defensive structure."

The two teams played out a goalless draw in the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup, but their most recent meeting was in the 2019 EAFF Championship, with Japan coming out 1-0 victors.

"We know Japan are a very strong team, technically really good. World class players with two players I know very well in the German Bundesliga, (Saki) Kumagai and (Mana) Iwabuchi," Bell said.

"It's a big test for us, but we need to be competing against the best to see how far we've come and what we need to do. If we manage that, then it puts us in a good position in the quarter-finals because we've won the group. It's a game that we need to focus on. It's going to be an exciting match."

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Korea, however, will be left guessing as to who might feature in Japan's starting eleven with head coach Futoshi Ikeda utilising a total of 21 players in the last two matches.

The depth of talent in the defending champion's squad is unquestionable, but Ikeda wants to tune his players a little bit more.

"We made a lot of mistakes (against Vietnam). So we will need to improve on those points (against Korea)," Ikeda said.

"Korea will definitely be more difficult than our previous two. I want to manage our players' condition so that they can play." At the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, Vietnam and Myanmar will put everything on the line in their final group C match.

The top two teams from each group, along with two best third-placed sides will qualify for the quarter-finals, which promises to be an exciting match-up when the two Southeast Asian rivals meet.

Vietnam has a marginal edge, having conceded one goal less but will be wary of a Myanmar side they are very familiar with.

Their most recent meeting was in the Final Round of the Women's Olympic Qualifiers in 2020, but Vietnam head coach Mai Duc Chung believes Myanmar hold the upper hand this time around as his squad has been heavily affected by COVID-19.

"We will still keep fighting and prepare everything for the last match, it's very important," said Mai.

"I would, however, say that Myanmar are more lucky compared to us because they were not affected by COVID, but we will still do our best to get the three points."

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