NAVI MUMBAI: The most successful nation in the AFC Women's Asian Cup, China will start as favourites when they take on South Korea in the final of the 2022 edition at the DY Patil Stadium here on Sunday.
China have won the title eight times and have finished runners-up twice. But their last title came in 2006 and their last appearance in the final was two years later in 2008 when they lost to North Korea in Vietnam.
In contrast, South Korea have reached their maiden final. Their best result was the third place they achieved in 2003. Even in the 2022 edition, China has done marginally better than South Korea, having beaten two-time defending champions Japan in the semis.
However, South Korea are also on a high following their breakthrough performance in this edition and Sunday's clash promises to be a spectacular affair as both teams have set their eyes on the coveted trophy.
China, led by five-time AFC Women's Asian Cup winner Shui Qingxia, will walk onto the field on Sunday for the decider with a superior head-to-head record. But South Korea head coach Colin Bell is confident that it will count for nothing on Sunday.
"The mood in the team is great, it's a good feeling to exceed expectations," said Bell. "The girls are prepared to go the distance and play 120 minutes. Our mental and physical state is good and we're ready to go. Thankfully we have no injuries and will put in our best 11 in the final. We have depth in our squad so we're flexible to make changes and I'm sure China PR are the same."
Korea have not defeated China in their last seven meetings but Bell said that won't be a factor as his players are determined to lift the AFC Women's Asian Cup for the first time.
"I don't see us not having a win against China PR a problem. Maybe it is a problem for China PR but It's time now for us to put an end to that (winless streak) and we are ready to put this behind us. We don't want to think about these figures, if we did we wouldn't be here."
If anything, Bell said South Korea's heartbreaking loss to China in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers has helped them mature.
"The team was in a different place in 2020 (Olympic Qualifiers), we had very few matches and it was difficult for the team to get games going. Despite losing to China PR on aggregate, we took in our stride and persevered.
"We have improved so much as a team since last year. We have some really good players in our squad but I don't have to teach Ji So-Yun how to play, the aim here is to increase the endurance, fitness and confidence of these players," the coach said during a virtual press conference on Saturday.
China have to be taken seriously after their stunning win over Japan in the semi-finals, which head coach Shui believes will inspire her team to clinch the nation's first AFC Women's Asian Cup title in 16 years.
"Facing Korea will be difficult. We have had just a short time to prepare and make adjustments, not just on the game but mentally as well.
"There is no point thinking about the past record against the Korea Republic. In a final, there will be many different scenarios played out and we will have to be prepared. Perseverance equals success and maybe, there might be some unforeseeable circumstances but we will be prepared."
Shui knows all about lifting titles, having won the AFC Women's Asian Cup five times as a player — a success achieved due to the self-belief of the Chinese players of those decades and the 55-year-old wants the current lot to be equally confident. IANS
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