Courtesy: The AFC.comPreview: Matchday One - Group ATuesday, May 1, 2018S
Bangkok: The race for the title of champions of Asian women’s futsal begins in earnest tomorrow, with eight of the competition’s 15 teams kicking off their respective campaigns. Join the-AFC.com as we preview the Group A action Matchday One.THAILAND v MACAU
Having claimed gold medals at the SEA Games and Asian Indoor Games within the last year, Thailand enter the AFC Women’s Futsal Championship full of confidence and with the tag of tournament favourites.
Their status was underlined during warm-up matches in Tehran, where wins over reigning champions Islamic Republic of Iran and European powerhouse Ukraine ensured the hosts will enter their opening match against newcomers Macau full with confidence, according to head coach Udom Taveesuk.
“We beat Ukraine, who are the fourth best team in the world, and after that we beat Iran 7-0. It means we are more than ready for this tournament,” he said.
“Everyone in the Thailand team wants to be champions in our country.”
Udom admits little is known about tournament newcomers Macau, but the highly-rated boss believes the opening match, to be held at Bangkok’s Huamark Indoor Stadium, is a challenge his side must navigate on the road to greater honours.
“For every team, the first game of the tournament is the most difficult and we welcome Macau to their first time in the tournament,” he said.
“We’ve never seen Macau in action so this is exciting, but we are more than ready for the first game. We’ve improved a lot since the SEA Games and Asian Indoor Games, and now we are confident for the first game and every game in the tournament.”
Macau head coach Chiang Ka Chon acknowledged the difficulty of being drawn against such strong opponents in their first look at the top level of Asian futsal, but insisted his side would be ready for the challenge ahead.
“This is the first time a Macau team has joined an AFC Women's Futsal Championship and we have prepared for this tournament for about half a year,” he said.
“Our first match is against the home team, Thailand, and obviously their ability is better than us. We will focus on defending and tell the players to enjoy the tournament and game.”
Thailand reached the semi-finals at the inaugural AFC Women’s Futsal Championship in Malaysia three years ago, losing 1-0 to eventual winners Iran before defeating the hosts 4-1 to claim a third place finish.HONG KONG v INDONESIA
Group A’s early match could go a long to way in deciding who advances to the knockout stage, with both Hong Kong and Indonesia pinpointing the fixture as one the tournament’s most important.
Hong Kong produced a competitive showing in Malaysia three years ago but, unable to challenge the strongest sides, they were eliminated in the group stage.
Head coach Ho Wing Kam believes they must get their campaign off to a strong start if they are to fare better in Thailand.
“This is the most important game in the group and we hope we can win it,” she said.
“If we can win this game maybe we can qualify for the second round, so this is the most important game for our team.”
Ho’s opposite number, Kensuke Takahashi, agreed that the opening day fixture would go a long way towards determining his side’s fate.
“We think the first game is very important for our momentum. We really need to gain the experience of a win to realise that we can make it through the group stage.”
Indonesia has not appeared in recent AFC or Asian Indoor Games women’s futsal tournaments, but will take a measure of confidence from the bronze medal they won at last year’s SEA Games.
Takahashi believes building further on the belief within his team is the key to unlocking their potential.
“I have told the players they need to play with more confidence in these games,” the 35-year-old revealed.
“There are a lot of obstacles in the first match, but I believe in our players to show that confidence and win the match.”
One player who has experienced the big stage is Hong Kong’s Cheung Wai Ki, who has starred in the national team in both futsal and football, and recently won the Australian W-League Premiership with Brisbane Roar.
Cheung has juggled national team commitments for the last five years, and head coach Ho believes the 27-year-old’s experience playing against some of Asia’s best players in the women’s outdoor game will translate to the indoor arena.
“It’s a good experience for Wai Ki to play both futsal and football because the speed of the game in Australia is very fast, faster than Hong Kong, so her experience and decision-making there will help her in futsal.”
Courtesy: The AFC.comPreview: Matchday One - Group BTuesday, May 1, 2018
Bangkok: Two established Southeast Asian sides, an ambitious Chinese Taipei and the youngest team at the tournament will kick off Group B action on the opening day of the AFC Women’s Futsal Championship Thailand 2018.MALAYSIA v BANGLADESH
Of the seven nations making their AFC Women’s Futsal Championship debut at Thailand 2018, Bangladesh are perhaps the team with the most to learn.
Led by head coach Golam Robbani Choton, the South Asians will arrive for their Matchday One encounter with Malaysia with just one player over the age of 19, in a squad which lacks competitive futsal experience.
Almost all of the players representing Bangladesh in Bangkok are drawn from the 11-a-side team that featured in the AFC U-16 Championships 2017, also coached by Choton, with 24-year-old Sabina Katun the sole senior player.
Choton, who has since led Bangladesh to the SAFF U-15 Women’s Championship title, admits his young side lack experience in the five-a-side game, but says exposure to Asia’s best players offers a chance to learn.
“We know all the teams in this group are very strong and we are not so experienced in futsal, but our goal from this tournament is (to gain) experience,” he said.
“We are a new team, but we are doing a lot of practice in futsal and we will do our best to have a good result in this tournament.”
Their first assignment on the Asian futsal stage appears far from easy, with opponents Malaysia hoping to repeat their impressive 2015 showing, where they reached the AFC Women’s Futsal Championship semi-finals on home soil.
The Southeast Asians finished outside the medals in last year’s SEA Games, but head coach and former men’s national team star Addie Azwan says it will be a new-look Malaysia on display at Bangkok Arena.
“Our players from Malaysia are a new team - a young team. They had two months to prepare for this tournament,” he said.
“We are prepared for the first game against Bangladesh for all the games in this group.”
While Malaysia are expected to overcome Bangladesh, fellow group opponents Vietnam and Chinese Taipei could create a three-way battle for the two places on offer to the quarter-finals.
Azwan, whose side tuned up for the tournament with a 4-1 win over neighbours Indonesia, stopped short of calling Group B the tournament’s ‘group of death’, but acknowledged that he anticipated a challenge.
“We don’t have a lot of information about the Bangladesh futsal team, but we have played Vietnam at the SEA Games and Chinese Taipei, who we also played against last year,” said the 36-year-old.
“I think it will be a tough fight.”VIETNAM v CHINESE TAIPEI
Chang Yao-ming is aiming to make Chinese Taipei’s first AFC Women’s Futsal Championship one to remember, with the head coach targeting a place in the tournament’s final four ahead of his side’s Matchday One encounter with Vietnam.
The East Asians come into the tournament fresh from a 4-0 friendly victory over fellow newcomers Macau, and Chan believes his side can get their campaign off to a winning start against Vietnam.
“We have prepared for this game for two years, and I hope every player can do their best,” he said.
“We want to be in the semi-finals. We want to make sure our whole team can do it together.
Chang said he has been studying his first-up opponents, who will include 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup goal scorer Le Thu Thanh Hong, but wasn’t prepared to divulge any secrets.
“We know Vietnam played a friendly match against China PR, and we know some things about them, but we won’t be telling you what they are now,” he laughed.
Chang’s opposite number, Vietnam head coach Truong Quoc Tuan, expects a tough match from a Chinese Taipei side he sees as an unknown quantity.
“In the first match against Chinese Taipei team, we don’t have so much information about our opponents and I think the first match in any tournament is very tough,” he said.
Vietnam is a hotbed of futsal talent, with the men’s national team regularly reaching the knockout stages of the AFC Futsal Championship and qualifying for the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
But Truong said the women’s national team has a long way to go to reach their potential on the Asian stage.
“Our squad is very young, and I would like to use the tournament to train our team for the near future,” he revealed.
“Futsal in Vietnam is developing. Our men’s team qualified and took part in the World Cup, but there are a lot of differences in women’s futsal and we need to practice and develop.”
Vietnam performed strongly at last August’s SEA Games, earning a silver medal in a tournament where they defeated Indonesia and Myanmar and remained competitive despite losing 3-1 to eventual champions Thailand.
Posted by Luca Ranocchiari