Taiwan books quarterfinals spot at 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup

01/27/2022 11:09 AM
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Taiwan's captain Lai Li-chin hugs a teammate at their 5-0 win over Iran on Wednesday during the group phase of the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup held in India/ Photo courtesy of Chinese Taipei Football Association

Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) Taiwan booked a slot in the quarterfinals of the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup after sailing past Iran 5-0 in their last group game Wednesday, which also moved them one step closer to securing a berth at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Competing under the name Chinese Taipei, Taiwan finished second in Group A thanks to the win at D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.

Taiwan posted a 1-1 record that placed them behind China's unblemished 2-0 record and in front of Iran's 0-2.

China clinched Group A's top spot after a 4-0 win over Taiwan and a 7-0 hammering of Iran on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23, respectively.

India, which is hosting the 17-day tournament, was forced to withdraw after an outbreak of COVID-19 left it unable to field the minimum 13 players in a scheduled Group A match against Taiwan on Sunday.

The host team was responsible for the match not taking place and therefore considered to have withdrawn from the competition according to tournament rules, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement on Monday.

Taiwan will now face the second-placed team from Group B on Sunday at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune. Group B will have its last round of games on Thursday before it finalizes its standings.

Aside from China and Australia, Japan and South Korea have also punched their tickets for the Asian Cup final eight.

Under the tournament format, the top two teams in each of the three qualifying groups reach the quarterfinals, along with the two best third-placed teams.

Taiwan striker and captain Lai Li-chin (賴麗琴), who scored three goals on Wednesday, said after the match that her team made corresponding adjustments to both their defense and offense, which helped them secure the win.

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Taiwan's captain Lai Li-chin (left) / Photo courtesy of Chinese Taipei Football Association

But Lai said the team would not rest on their laurels, emphasizing that "there are still some faults that we need improve on."

When asked what was the key to scoring five goals in the match, Lai said it was because of her team's ambition to secure a slot at the next World Cup.

The 2022 Women's Asian Cup semifinalists and two top quarterfinalists will automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup, which is being hosted in Australia and New Zealand.

Australia, which has locked up an Asian Cup quarterfinal slot, already gets a World Cup berth as its co-host, leaving five spots open to other teams.

The other two Asian Cup quarterfinalists will still have a final chance to get into the World Cup through an inter-confederation playoff, currently scheduled for Feb. 17-23.

Back at the match Wednesday, Lai kicked off her hat trick with a well-placed shot from the penalty area into the bottom left-hand corner that was bundled past the outstretched hands of Iran goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei just four minutes into the match.

Taiwan doubled their lead 31 minutes in when a cross from Lai into the box bounced off the right post and into the net.

Chen Yen-ping celebrates with a teammate after scoring Taiwan
Chen Yen-ping celebrates with a teammate after scoring Taiwan's third goal / Photo courtesy of Chinese Taipei Football Association

With the team in full swing, Taiwan forward Chen Yen-ping (陳燕萍) rifled home a rebounded Koudaei save with just five minutes remaining in the first half.

Lai sealed her hat trick in the 65th minute after sending Koudaei the wrong way with a penalty kick following a foul on forward Su Yu-hsuan (蘇育萱) by Iran defender Melika Motevalli.

Substitute Wang Hsiang-huei (王湘惠) made it 5-0 for Taiwan on 78 minutes after the midfielder picked up a through ball from Su in the penalty area.

Taiwan has already made strides this year simply by advancing to the Asian Cup, being played for the 20th time. The team is making its 14th appearance in the tournament, but its first since 2008.

Taiwan qualified for the first official World Cup in 1991 but has not been back since.

A pioneer of Asian women's soccer, Taiwan's women's soccer team is a three-time Asian champion, having won the title in 1977, 1979 and 1981.

(By William Yen)

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