We’re underway in Jordan for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, so which sides stand any chance of winning?

With the tournament all but upon us, Australia enter as favourites to take out the gong for the second time in their short Asian Cup history.

The Matildas will have to rise above seven other sides to achieve this feat and in an eight-team competition, no one’s around to make up the numbers.

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The Underdogs

Philippines (FIFA Ranking – 72)

A country not known for its female footballing prowess, the Malditas – yes, the Malditas (translates roughly to feisty ladies) – will be everyone’s favourite second team heading into the tournament.

This is their first Asian Cup appearance since 2003, though the competition has not been their most memorable of hunting grounds. In Malaysia 1995, they lost by a tame 21-0 to eventual champions China.

Their aim: securing a top five finish to send them to the 2019 France Women’s World Cup. It is perhaps more likely than one might think; seven of their players ply their trade in the United States.

Vietnam (FIFA Ranking – 35)

The Golden Girls; is there a better team nickname in WoSo? Regardless, the Vietnamese cruised through Group D to qualify for the Asian Cup and sit in Group B in a dangerous matchup for the Matildas.

Vietnam’s highest finish in this competition is sixth and in a group with Japan, South Korea and Australia in it, it’s unlikely for them to finish any higher.

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Thailand (FIFA Ranking – 30)

Thailand head into the Asian Cup fresh off a 5-0 belting at the hands of the Matildas in Perth. Their form has been inconsistent at best over the past six months, with wins over Vietnam and Jordan overshadowed by defeats to China, New Zealand and Jordan (two-legged friendly).

The entire squad of the 1983 Asian Cup champions play in their home country, save 21-year-old forward Suchawadee Nildhamrong currently playing at Berkeley.

In 2014, the Chaba Kaew finished fifth to clinch the final World Cup spot. Their aim will be similar in Jordan. 

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The Dark Horses

Jordan (FIFA Ranking – 51)

The hosts are sophomores heading into this tournament, and are somewhat of an unknown quantity for their opponents.

The team is still relatively young, having been founded in 2005 after government supported the formation of a women’s national team. Since then, rapid growth has seen the Jordanians become the Middle East’s most formidable side.

With the support of their country behind them, the Al Nashmeyat are a strong chance to qualify from Group A.

South Korea (FIFA Ranking – 16)

Wondering why three-time Asian Cup champions North Korea are not featuring in Jordan? South Korea are to thank for that.

The peninsula nation beat out their Northern rivals in qualifying to top the group and the Taegeuk Ladies will look to take the next step this month, having never made the final of an Asian Cup in the previous 11 tournaments.

It will not be easy though, having been thrown to the wolves in the dreaded Group B.

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China PR (FIFA Ranking – 17)

One could mount a strong argument that the Chinese deserve to fall in the “Genuine Contenders” category. The eight-time Asian Cup Champions also hold an exemplary Women’s World Cup record, having never been knocked out earlier than the quarter-finals.

But the Steel Roses have lost all four of their matches against Australia and Japan in the past six months by a combined score line of 11-1, undermining their title aspirations.

However the Chinese are the strongest side in Group A. Expect to see them in the final four for a tasty match up against one of the following two sides.

The Genuine Contenders

Japan (FIFA Ranking – 11)

The reigning champions are as daunting as it gets in Asia. Currently battling with the Matildas for supremacy as Asia’s strongest side, Nadeshiko Japan’s recent record has been intermittent, save a 7-1 thrashing of Ghana a week ago.

However the 2011 Women’s World Cup Winners are as strong as ever. If not for anything else, Japan’s group stage blockbuster against Australia on Friday the 13th is absolutely worth staying up until 11:45pm (EST) for.

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Australia (FIFA Ranking – 6)

The 2018 Asian Cup is shaping as an era-defining tournament for the Matildas. The squad is absolutely brimming with genuine talent, led by the untouchable Sam Kerr.

Astonishingly, Australia have lost just one of their last 15 matches, a third place playoff against hosts Portugal in the Algarve Cup.

Placed in the difficult Group B, their opponents will be challenging but most challenging of all will be the pressure of expectation. Can Alen Stajic lead our golden generation to another trophy?

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