Reigning Asian champions Japan put seven goals into the Chaba Kaew’s net, who had only 14 players available due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the squad.
Thailand’s hopes of winning a second AFC Asian Cup crown were arguably dashed even before kickoff by the virus. With only three substitutes on the bench and without important figures such as Taneekarn Dangda, Sunisa Srangthaisong, and Kanyanat Chetthabutr, Thailand played a totally defensive game straight from kick-off.
Thailand’s defence was exploited down the flanks by Nadeshiko wingers Yui Hasegawa and Hinata Miyazawa. West Ham United winger Hasegawa was the creator of the first golden attempt of this match in the 15th minute. Her pass found Rin Sumida, who was fouled by veteran midfielder Wilaiporn Boothduang just inside the penalty box.
Lucky for Thailand, Boonsing correctly guessed the direction of the penalty taken by Arsenal striker, Mana Iwabuchi. However, it was just a matter of time until Japan broke the deadlock. On the 27th minute, Miyazawa cut in from the left side sent a lovely through pass to Yuika Sugasawa to give Japan the lead. Miyazawa then put her own name on the scoreboard for the first time in the match to double the lead before half time.
Japan made two substitutions at the beginning of the second half, with international stars Iwabuchi and Hasegawa replaced by local talents: Urawa Reds midfielder Hikaru Naomoto and 22-year-old striker Riko Ueki from Tokyo Verdy Belleza.
The Nadeshiko made it three in the 48th minute through Sumida, which opened the floodgates. Sugasawa finally scored her second goal from a penalty in the 65th minute, before Ueki netted her first senior-team goal ten minutes later. Japan added a further two in the final ten minutes to round out the emphatic victory. Unfortunately with their limited squad, Chaba Kaew coach Okamoto was only able to make one substitution throughout the entire game, after all seven goals bagged from Boonsing’s net.
Along with Thailand, Australia and Vietnam and Chinese Taipei were also eliminated from the competition. Vietnam took a one-goal lead in the 11th minute against China, but were forced to accept a 3-1 loss at the end. The only ASEAN team to progress to the semi-finals is the Philippines, who also qualified for their first ever Women’s World Cup after beating Chinese Taipei in a penalty shootout.
Since World Cup hosts Australia were eliminated, the other three quarter-final losers will play a single round-robin play-off to qualify for that competition. The hope for Chaba Kaew to go directly to the next World Cup is still alive, if they can beat Vietnam and Chinese Taipei on the 2nd and 4th of February respectively. Even if they don’t win the round robin, they still have a chance of going through the inter-confederation playoff.
Things will not be easy for Thailand. A historic night for the Philippines has put them on the map has a powerhouse in Southeast Asia, while upcoming opponents Vietnam defeated the Chaba Kaew at the last AFF Women’s Championship in Chonburi back in 2019. Unfortunately, their progression could all depend on the squad’s COVID-19 situation.