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The Week in Women's Football: Asian Cup 2022; Matildas squad; Vietnam visit Spain;

This week, we start the first of our continuing coverage of the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup, which begins later this month with 12 teams in India. This tournament doubles as the AFC regional 2023 Women's World Cup tournament, which Australia has already qualifier for as co-hosts. This week we look at Australia's squad for a pre-tournament camp in Dubai, UAE, then lay out the four teams in each of the three first round groups, as well as present the rosters and news for Vietnam, host side India and Chinese Taipei.



Australia takes 25 players to Jordan, with four competing for two last positions for the Women's Asia Cup squad in India

Matilda's head coach Tony Gustavsson took 25 players to Dubai for a pre-tournament camp, with 21 spots guaranteed to go to India for the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup Finals and four fighting for the last two spots on the team. Gustavsson's decision to not immediately name a full 23-player squad was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and wanting to be flexible with his roster, "If this would have been normal circumstances, we would have announced 23 players straight away that would have been the roster going to India. But the fact that we can actually change players within the roster up until six hours before the tournament starts and uncertainty of the situation that we're in, I'm actually leaving two spots open that I'm going to announce at the end of the Dubai pre-camp, depending on which players are available."

Gustavsson's decision is also viewed as a reward to players like Melbourne City duo Winonah Heatley and Holly McNamara, Sydney FC's Cortnee Vine, and Canberra United defender Karly Roestbakken, for their strong A-League Women's play this season, saying that, "Some of the players that never experienced a Matildas' environment before, have had a really outstanding season in the A-League. I think they deserve a chance to come into the Matildas' environment and actually get a chance to be picked for this roster."

The squad draws heavily from the 2020 Olympic Games Finals team that finished in fourth place, with 19 players called into camp. Sam Kerr and Steph Catley will once again lead the side in the captain and vice-captain roles, respectively. Goalkeeper Lydia Williams, defender Catley, and forward Caitlin Foord could all reach their 100th caps during the tournament.

Defender Charli Grant, forward Remy Siemsen and midfielder Clare Wheeler are set to make their international tournament debuts after promising showings late in 2021, following their national team maiden caps.

Aivi Luik was a surprise inclusion as she had retired from international football after last summer's Tokyo Olympic Games Finals. Her inclusion comes off the back of good showings for Pomigliano in Italy's Serie A, who currently are tied for eighth in the twelve-team league with 13 points from a 4-1-6 (W-D-L) record—with Luik playing in 10 games and scoring once—but also from her versatility and professionalism. Gustavsson said, "It's not just about Aivi's performance on the field to be a really, really good solution for us in the holding midfielder and centre back position, where I feel we lacked some depth. It's also about having Aivi's character, professionalism, tournament experience and winning attitude. She's a role model, and mentor for the young players, so she's going to be as important on the field as she will be off the field." Luik, who had announced her retirement after Tokyo along with Laura (Alleway) Brock—who now plays at EA Guingamp in France—said about her recall, "I'd actually gotten a few Matildas' emails recently and I thought it was just a mistake due to the change in managerial personnel, but then I got a call from Tony who explained his plan to include me in the squad. Of course, it was a big shock because I'd announced my retirement but I was happy to accept the call up and will do whatever I can to help the team win. It's been over 10 years since we last won it [the AFC Women's Asian Cup—when she was a member of the side] and I think it's overdue. What better lead up to the World Cup than being champions of Asia? My role for the camp and tournament will be to use my experience to help the team be successful on the pitch as well as helping to get best out of the younger players by making them feel comfortable and supported in the pressures of the international tournament environment."

This writer can attest to the character and class of Aivi Luik, who was the first interview that I ever did for my book on the global women's game—Beyond Bend It Like Beckham—when she was playing for FC Indiana well over a decade ago and going to college in America. She was overlooked at times by former Matildas coach Tom Sermanni—at times to a maddening degree—but her successful club career in Europe (my book discusses her time on loan to a club in Ukraine in 2008 during their UEFA Women's Champions Cup campaign along with some of her FC Indiana teammates)—and have continued to talk to her over the years, including at the 2019 Women's World Cup in Grenoble, France. I remember a memorable night in Indianapolis in 2007 where a shorthanded FC Indiana side defeated the New Zealand women's national team 1-0, just before the Football Ferns headed to 2007 Women's World Cup in China [as did this reporter]. FC Indiana had one available substitute on the bench and head coach Shek Borkowski asked Luik to play as a central defender rather than in her usual central midfield role, and she was a key difference maker in the game. I think that, despite her age of 36, she could still be an asset to the Matildas in their 2023 Women's World Cup Finals campaign at home, as she is still going strong at the club level in a top European league.

The camp in the UAE started on January 10, with the final 23-player roster due to arrive in India just days ahead of Australia opening its campaign against Indonesia on January 21 in Mumbai. Australia will play Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand in Group B with all three of their group matches at Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai.



CommBank Matildas Travelling Squad | AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 | January 2022

Name

Position

Club

Caps (goals)

Junior Club / Member Fed

Mackenzie ARNOLD

Goalkeeper

West Ham United (ENG)

27 (0)

Burleigh / Football QLD

Ellie CARPENTER

Back

Lyon (FRA)

54 (1)

Cowra and District / Football NSW

Steph CATLEY

Back

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

96 (3)

East Bentleigh, SE Cougars / Football Victoria

Kyra COONEY-CROSS

Midfielder

Melbourne Victory

14 (0)

Ballarat City / Football Victoria

Caitlin FOORD

Forward

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

95 (21)

Warilla Wanderers / Football NSW

Mary FOWLER

Forward

Montpellier (FRA)

20 (5)

Leichhardt / Football QLD

Emily GIELNIK

Forward

Aston Villa (ENG)

50 (11)

Redlands United / Football QLD

Charlotte GRANT

Back

FC Rosengård (SWE)

3 (0)

Cumberland United Women's FC / Football SA

Winonah HEATLEY*

Back

Melbourne City

0 (0)

Mossman and Cairns / Football QLD

Alanna KENNEDY

Back

Manchester City (ENG)

102 (8)

Campbelltown Cobras / Football NSW

Sam KERR

Forward

Chelsea (ENG)

104 (49)

Western Knights / Football West

Aivi LUIK

Back

Pomigliano (ITA)

33 (0)

Palm Beach SC / Football QLD

Holly McNAMARA*

Forward

Melbourne City

0 (0)

Ermington United Sports and Recreation Club / Football NSW

Teagan MICAH

Goalkeeper

FC Rosengård (SWE)

8 (0)

Brisbane Blue, Brisbane Central / Football QLD

Courtney NEVIN

Back

Melbourne Victory

7 (0)

Oakville Ravens / Football NSW

Clare POLKINGHORNE

Back

Vittsjö GIK (SWE)

138 (12)

Wynnum Wolves, Capalaba / Football QLD

Hayley RASO

Forward

Manchester City (ENG)

58 (6)

Banora Point / Football QLD

Karly ROESTBAKKEN*

Back

Canberra United (on loan)

7 (0)

Monaro Panthers / Capital Football

Remy SIEMSEN

Forward

Sydney FC

2 (0)

Manly United / Football NSW

Kyah SIMON

Forward

Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)

105 (27)

Quakers Hill, Hills Brumbies / Football NSW

Emily VAN EGMOND

Midfielder

Newcastle Jets (on loan)

112 (23)

Dudley-Redhead / Northern NSW Football

Cortnee VINE*

Forward

Sydney FC

0 (0)

Peninsula Power FC / Football QLD

Clare WHEELER

Midfielder

Fortuna Hjørring (DEN)

5 (0)

Adamstown Rosebud / Northern NSW Football

Lydia WILLIAMS

Goalkeeper

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

95 (0)

Tuggeranong, Woden Valley / Capital Football

Tameka YALLOP

Midfielder

West Ham United (ENG)

101 (11)

Mudgeeraba / Football QLD

*Selected as part of the travelling squad for the pre-tournament camp in the UAE but not confirmed members of the final tournament squad


Aivi Luik and Laura Brock

Aivi Luik (left) with the Australian Women's National Team. Photo Courtesy Australian Football Federation.



2022 Women's Asian Cup Group Play Lineup

The three first round groups in India are comprised of the following:

Group A

  • China PR
  • Chinese Taipei
  • India
  • Iran

Group B

  • Australia
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Thailand

Group C

  • Japan
  • Korea Republic
  • Myanmar
  • Vietnam


Vietnam Takes Pre-Tournament Trip to Spain

Vietnam, under head coach Mai Duc Chung, has named its roster for the 2022 Women's Asian Cup Finals and took a pre-tournament training trip to Spain, where they played some friendly matches, including a 0-0 tie with LA Solana FC, which is currently in 13th place out of 16 teams of Spain's 2nd Division, on January 2. On December 30, Vietnam defeated Pozoles 3-0, which stands 15th in the Spanish second division. They won their second match of the tour on January 6 when they defeated Cordoba 3-0, which is currently in 8th place in Spain's 2nd Division.

Vietnam Women's National Team before a friendly match in Spain in January 2022. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Football Federation.



India's Women's National Team Prepares to Host Women's Asian Cup

Looking forward to hosting this important AFC regional tournament, India head coach Thomas Dennerby (62) said, "This is the moment we've been preparing for over the past six months. We've had over 200 sessions, a number of matches against quality opponents across four countries, and now it's time to implement all the things that we have been working on…. We had a small meet with the players and we explained to them how important the coming few weeks are in their lives. I think this has really struck a few chords, and you can now see the determination in their eyes." Dennerby was a historic signing as he had coached the full national sides of his native Sweden and Nigeria before moving to India. He was brought in to coach the U-17 women's team in November of 2019, which was due to host the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2020, though it was cancelled due to COVID. He took over the full national side in August 2021 for the Women's Asian Cup/2023 WWC regional qualifiers.

Head Coach Thomas Dennerby (in middle, in a light blue jersey) is actively involved at practice with the Indian Women's National Team ahead of their high-profile host role for the 2022 Women's Asian Cup tournament, which starts in late January. Photo courtesy of All India Football Federation.


Because of COVID, all 12 competing teams will be staying inside a strict bio bubble and everyone involved in the tournament, including all players and officials, will undergo regular COVID-19 tests. All the staff working in the hotel will also be in the bubble and will not physically interact with anyone outside the bubble, nor will team drivers.

The Indian squad is a young one, with as many as 15 players under the age of 25, with a collective average age of 23.13, drawing on Dennerby's initial experience coaching the U-17 national team. The youngest members of the squad are four who have come in from the U-19 squad: Shilky Hemam, Priyangka Devi, Sumati Kumari, and Mariyammal Balamurugan. Centre-back Ashalata Devi (Sethu FC in India, who played early in her career with New Radiant Club in the Maldives) is expected to captain the side, and add to her 64 caps at the age of 28. Unfortunately, the Blue Tigresses will miss out on the presence of forward Bala Devi of Rangers (Scotland), who is still recovering from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery, performed last September. The squad named by Dennerby is currently all based with clubs in India.



The 23 players for the 2022 Women's Asian Cup Roster (with jersey number in parentheses) is as follow:

GOALKEEPERS: Aditi Chauhan (1), Maibam Linthoingambi Devi (23), Sowmiya Narayanasamy (19).

DEFENDERS: Dalima Chhibber (17), Sweety Devi Ngangbam (2), Ritu Rani (21), Loitongbam Ashalata Devi (4), Manisa Panna (3), Hemam Shilky Devi (5), Sanju Yadav (8).

MIDFIELDERS: Yumnam Kamala Devi (6), Anju Tamang (9), Karthika Angamuthu (20), Nongmeithem Ratanbala Devi (7), Naorem Priyangka Devi (14), Indumathi Kathiresan (12).

FORWARDS: Manisha Kalyan (16), Grace Dangmei (11), Pyari Xaxa (10), Renu (15), Sumati Kumari (22), Sandhiya Ranganathan (13), Mariyammal Balamurugan (18).

India is hosting the continent's highest competition for the first time since 1980 and at stake is a possible berth in the 2023 FIFA World Cup. India begins their campaign at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai against IR Iran on January 20, before facing Chinese Taipei (January 23) at the same venue. For their third match of Group A, the Indian Team will move to Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai, where they square off against China PR (January 26).

Their defender Dalima Chhibber, who plays at Gokulam Kerala and at 24, has over 40 national team caps, talked about the difference that Dennerby has brought to the Indian Women's National Team, "A lot has changed, especially the number of exposure matches that we have been playing in Brazil, Sweden, Turkey and so on. Brazil was a big learning curve for us, to see the hub of football culture and to understand what football really means to everyone there." Chhibber feels that the team is much better now in all phases under Dennerby's leadership, "He has brought in a mental toughness in the squad—whether it's chanting, whether it's running, whether it's conditioning, whether it's speed, whether it's the technical aspect, or it's a tactical aspect. We've been able to focus on every part of the game in detail. We've been able to highlight that we've been able to improve. We've been able to come together as a team, and improve our games building up to the Asian Cup." She said that the ultimate goal for the Indian team is a first ever Women's World Cup berth, "The dream for us is to reach the FIFA World Cup. So, when we went to Brazil to play against Brazil, it was a dream come true. But like going to Brazil, playing against those teams, was the start of a dream because we know where we have to be. That was just like a stepping stone. We realized what world football is like, and what kind of football the teams that are at the top level who play in the World Cup and Olympics play. So, for us it was a very big learning curve."

Dalima Chhibber (in foreground) with Head Coach Thomas Dennerby (behind her in a light blue jersey) at practice with the Indian Women's National Team. Photo courtesy of All India Football Federation.


In October, India went to Manaus, in the Amazonia region of Brazil, for three friendly matches against full national teams from CONMEBOL. The Indian women began against Brazil on November 25, 2021 and fell by a 6-1 margin, with 20-year-old Manisha Kalyan (Gokulam Kerala) scoring their lone goal. They next fell to 2019 WWC finalists Chile on November 28 (3-0), and then to Venezuela (2-1), with 25-year-old Dangmei Grace (Gokulam Kerala) giving her side the lead in the 18th minute before Venezuela scored twice in the second half on goals by Mariana Speckmaier (24)—who played 3 games last season for the NWSL Champions Washington D.C. Spirit—and a goal and assist by Barbara Olivieri (19) who currently plays at Texas A & M University. India at the time was ranked 57th by FIFA among national teams, compared to Brazil at number 7, Chile on 37 and Venezuela on 56th, just one spot ahead of India.


India's Women's National Team in Training; they should not be underestimated in their goal of reaching the 2023 Womens' World Cup. Photo courtesy of All India Football Federation.



Chinese Taipei hopes to make their second ever Women's World Cup

The Chinese Taipei women's national football team qualified for the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup for the first time in 14 years and are attempting to make their second Women's World Cup Finals, after qualifying for the inaugural edition in 1991, where they made the quarterfinals of the 12-team tournament before falling to the ultimate champions the U.S. 7-0. Interestingly, from a geo-political perspective, Chinese-Taipei (ranked 39th in the world by FIFA) were drawn into the same group as China (ranked 19th in the world), with whom decades-long tensions have ramped up recently. They also meet the hosts India (55th in the world rankings) and Asian Cup Finals debutants Iran (ranked 70th).

Chinese Taipei is using an entirely home-based side except for goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-yu, who plays in Japan with JEF United Chiba in the new W-League. Last season she played for Okayama Yunogo Belle and has played in Japan since transferring from Taichung Blue Whale at home. Another goalkeeper, Tsai Ming-jung, signed with FC Fujizakura of Japan in 2019 but now is without a club.

Chinese Taipei 2022 Women's Asian Cup roster

Pan Xinyu Taichung Blue Whale

Lai Wei Ru Taichung Blue Whale

Zhang Jilan Taichung Blue Whale

Lai Liqin Taichung Blue Whale

Su Yuxuan Taichung Blue Whale

Su Xinyun Hualien

Zhuo Liping Hualien

Pan Yanxin Hualien

Xu Yijun Hualien

Wang Xianghui Hualien

Wu Kaiqing Kwohsiung Yangxin

Ding Flag Kwohsiung Yangxin

Li Xiuqin Kwohsiung Yangxin

Zhang Zinuo Taipei Bear Praise

Lin Xinhui Taipei Bear Praise

Wang Yuting Taipei Bear Praise

Ding Jaiying Taipei Bear Praise

Liao Weiqi New Beihangyuan

Chen Yinghui New Beihangyuan

Chen Yamping New Beihangyuan

Zhang Shuxin New Beihangyuan

Tsai Ming-jung Without club—formerly with FC Fujizakura of Japan

Cheng Siyu [Ssu-yu] Chiba Jef United—Japan

Chinese Taipei advanced to the finals from the qualification round, defeating host Bahrain (2-0) and Laos (4-0) in a group in which Turkmenistan had to withdraw because of COVID-19, which also led to Bahrain's hosting duties, as Taipei was scheduled to host the games but limitations on foreign visitation by its government forced its change in venues.

b_850_600_16777215_00_media_images_中華女足李琇琴.jpg

Li Xiuqin of the Chinese Taipei national team and home-based side Kwohsiung Yangxin in action. Photo courtesy Chinese Taipei Football Association.



Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get yours copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey


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