Korea Republic faces its sternest test yet in the bid to win its maiden AFC Women’s Asian Cup when it faces China PR in the final at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.
China, if victorious, looks at making some history of its own, as it will be the nation’s record-extending ninth crown, having won twice as many titles as any other team in the fray. More importantly, it will close out a title drought that’s been on since 2006.
China has scored 16 goals in the tournament, third to Australia and Japan who both bowed out in the knockouts and almost twice as many as Korea.
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Led by Wang Shanshan (five goals) who also stands a chance at going past Australia’s Sam Kerr (seven goals) as the top goalscorer of this edition, the Steel Roses will hope to put pressure on the Koreans early on.
Head coach Shui Qingxia hinted at a change to the playing XI after a physically and emotionally charged semifinal against Japan which went to penalties. “Every team we play is different. But we know our skills. We are currently recovering and will make some adjustment for the final XI,” she said ahead of the summit clash.
Taking on Korea won’t be a bed of roses though. The Taegeuk Ladies are defensively solid and have conceded just one solitary goal in the tournament so far.
China has the better head-to-head record, unbeaten in its seven international encounters against Korea but Colin Bell’s side will hope to play on momentum.
“Mood in the team is very good. It should be, because we are in a big final. We've exceeded expectations from the outside world perhaps, but haven't exceeded our own expectations. We're here to win the final,” he said before the team’s training session.
Ji So-yun has been crucial to the team’s attack with four goals in the tournament so far and Bell will rely on her to add a bite to the Korean offence, however he is careful to size up his opponent correctly after the grit they showed in the semifinal.
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“China has strength in depth and has a good physicality. If you watch the first half, people thought Japan would win comfortably but China came back thanks to their physicality and then they have individual class players.
Shanshan scored the equaliser and took them to penalties. Wang Shuan is expected back for the final. So it's a compact, strong team and we hope to get our basics right against them,” he said.