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AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022: Title Contenders Australia Clear Favourites Against Lowly Indonesia

Australia face Indonesia in their campaign opener (Twitter)

Australia face Indonesia in their campaign opener (Twitter)

Indonesia are the lowest-ranked team in the 12-nation continental showpiece while the Australians are at 11th in the world.

Title contenders Australia will begin as overwhelming favourites when they face Indonesia in their opening match of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup here on Friday.

The Matildas are a powerhouse in this competition, reaching the final in four of the last five editions and winning the title in 2010. They are the highest-ranked team in this tournament while Indonesia have qualified for the group stage for the first time since 1989.

The Australian team, led by FIFA Best Player Award runner-up Sam Kerr, has 17 players based outside their country, mostly in the top-flight English league. Kerr herself plies her trade in Chelsea.

Indonesia are the lowest-ranked team in the 12-nation continental showpiece while the Australians are at 11th in the world.

The 2023 FIFA World Cup hosts Australia, who trained in Dubai en route to India, have the quality and experience few sides in Asia can match. Six of those who won the title in 2010 are also in the current squad.

They are seasoned players, in form, and, according to head coach Tony Gustavsson, all in the frame for selection for Friday’s Group B match at Mumbai Football Arena.

But he is not ready to take their opponents, nicknamed Garuda Pertiwi, lightly.

“One of the things we really worked hard on going into this game is how we can stop their counterattack, because the one thing that can really hurt us is if we lose the ball in bad areas and they can attack with technique and pace. We need to play our ‘A’ game,” Gustavsson said.

“We need to be humble and ready to really play our game,” said the Swede at the pre-match press conference.

Indonesia, on the other hand, will face a monumental test of their credentials as they return to Asia’s top table after a three-decade absence.

“Impossible is nothing. We have to focus on the first game, and then we have the matches against Thailand and the Philippines,” said head coach Rudy Eka Priyambadahe said.

The two sides have never met at the full international level, although a senior Indonesian side played against Australian U-20 national team during the 2015 AFF Championship, where the Young Matildas swept to a commanding 7-0 win.

In another Group B match at the DY Patil Stadium, Thailand would fancy their chances against Philippines.

Thailand, who qualified for the FIFA World Cup in the last two editions, are ranked 38th in the world while Philippines are at 64th position.

Taneekarn Dangda, Pikul Khueanpet, Sunisa Srangthaisong and Silawan Intamee are some of the Thailand players with FIFA World Cup experience under their belts and head coach Miyo Okamoto believes that exposure will help the team throughout this tournament.

“Many of our players in this squad have played in the FIFA World Cup, and that has helped them with their confidence ahead of this match and for the tournament,” Okamoto said.

“Our long-term goal is to make it to the FIFA World Cup.”

Thailand haven’t played any official matches since the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers but Okamoto insisted that his charges do not need time to reach their maximum potential.

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first published:January 20, 2022, 22:54 IST