• Philippines, Korea Republic, Thailand and Vietnam win through to the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup
  • Four-time FIFA Women’s World Cup participants Korea DPR suffer early elimination on the road to France 2019
  • Three nations make their Women’s World Cup bow in historic qualifying competition

The long road to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ began on 3 April with preliminary round matches in Asia kick-starting the action. Asian nations such as Japan, China PR and Australia have made a significant mark on the world stage, but this was an opportunity for some of the lesser lights to claim their share of the spotlight.

Mirroring the recent global growth in women’s football, Asian entries reached an all-time high in the hunt for a spot on the world stage. Twenty-two nations from the world's most populous continent entered the race for France 2019, including debutants Tajikistan, Iraq and United Arab Emirates.

Nineteen teams were split into four groups to determine which quartet would join Australia, China, Japan and tournament hosts Jordan at next year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup. East Asia has long been a stronghold for women’s football, but the fact that groups were held in four vastly contrasting nations – Tajikistan, Korea DPR, Palestine and Vietnam – is evidence of a growing footprint for the female game in the continent.

Ultimately Philippines, Korea Republic, Thailand and Vietnam picked up the four tickets on offer to next year’s eight-nation event, where five spots at France 2019 will be up for grabs. FIFA.com reviews all the action from a landmark tournament for Asian women’s football.

Jordan, Philippines joust
Asian Cup hosts Jordan were Group A’s star attraction as they look forward to their first major women’s football event since last year’s successful staging of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. And they did not disappoint by topping the group, though their berth at next year’s continental event was already assured. Philippines ensured their promise of recent years became something more tangible by winning through to their first Women’s Asian Cup since 2003. Having narrowly failed to do so on the road to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the Malditas achieved their goal with a match to spare as Sara Castaneda netted a late equaliser in their 1-1 draw against Bahrain. The final matchday saw top spot on offer – a prize collected by Jordan thanks to a comprehensive 5-1 rout of Philippines.
Group A: Jordan (15 points), Philippines (10), Bahrain (8), United Arab Emirates (7), Tajikistan (3), Iraq (0)

Heavyweight rivals joust
Perhaps most interest was centred on Pyongyang where hosts Korea DPR and Korea Republic – with six Women’s World Cup appearances between them – matched up. India, Hong Kong and Uzbekistan were also in the five-team group but the outcome was likely to be based on the contest between the two Korean rivals. A capacity crowd was on hand at the Kim II Sung stadium for the first-ever match between the pair in the Korea DPR capital. Sung Hyang-Sim’s first-half strike was cancelled out by Jang Selgi’s goal with 14 minutes remaining, and the home side will long lament a missed penalty from Wi Jong-Sim.

That result meant the two teams were effectively locked in a goal-difference shoot-out, provided they could win all their matches. Korea DPR’s young side – featuring several 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup winners – were unable to hold their nerve, and Korea Republic edged qualification thanks to a 4-0 final-day win over Uzbekistan. India collected a rare Women’s World Cup qualifying victory with a 2-0 triumph over Hong Kong to consign one of the pioneering nations of women’s football pioneers to bottom spot.
Group B: Korea Republic (10 – goal difference 20), Korea DPR (10 – 17), Uzbekistan (6), India (3), Hong Kong (0)

Thailand pushed all the way
The withdrawal of Guam and Lebanon left an abbreviated three-team group featuring Thailand, Chinese Taipei and also Palestine who hosted the tournament. Featuring in their third campaign, the home side played with pride but suffered 6-0 and 5-0 defeats against Thailand and Chinese Taipei respectively. That made for a winner-takes-all encounter and it was 2015 Women’s World Cup participants Thailand who edged victory thanks to Suchawadee Nidhamrong’s lone strike. 
Group C: Thailand (6), Chinese Taipei (3), Palestine (0)

Vietnam edge South-east Asian rivals
A group featuring Syria, Singapore, Iran, Myanmar and Vietnam produced a massive 67 goals from the opening nine matches but, despite the goal avalanche, the outcome was not decided until the final game. Hosts Vietnam and neighbouring Myanmar matched-up and it was the home side who triumphed over their Roger Reijners-coached rivals. Second-half goals from Thi Tuyet Dung and Hunyh Nhu sealed victory for a Vietnam side seeking to overcome the heartbreak of missing 2015 Women’s World Cup qualification at the final hurdle.
Group D: Vietnam (12), Myanmar (9), Iran (6), Singapore (3), Syria (0)

The numbers
0 - Matches Tajikistan has previously played at senior level

14 - Years since Philippines last featured in a Women’s Asian Cup

42,000 - The attendance at Kim II Sung Stadium in Pyongyang for the decisive match between Korea DPR and Korea Republic

100,000 - The peak viewership on the Vietnam FA’s YouTube channel as Vietnam progressed with a win over Myanmar