AMMAN – Japan’s hopes of qualifying for the Women’s World Cup were put on hold as it shared a scoreless draw with South Korea in Group B at the Women’s Asian Cup on Tuesday.
Nadeshiko Japan, the defending Asian Cup champion, had trounced Vietnam 4-0 on Saturday and victory over the Koreans would have booked it an early ticket to an eighth consecutive World Cup.
After winning its tournament opener, coach Asako Takakura made five changes to Japan’s lineup against the world No. 16 South Korea. Veteran forward Nahomi Kawasumi, a key member of Japan’s 2011 World Cup-winning side, made her first national team start in over two years.
However, world No. 11 Japan was on the back foot during the first half, with South Korean midfielder Lee Mi-na posing a threat but shooting over the crossbar from close range.
Japan found its rhythm after the break when substitute Yuika Sugasawa replaced forward Mina Tanaka. She headed Kawasumi’s corner narrowly wide in the 62nd minute.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t score even when we had the chance in the second half,” Sugasawa said. “We have to work on giving that one final push in our shots.”
Mana Iwabuchi’s last-minute shot was saved by South Korean goalie Yoon Young-guel.
The April 6-20 Women’s Asian Cup serves as the final stage of Asian qualification for the 2019 World Cup in France, with the top five teams qualifying.
Japan will face world No. 6 Australia on Friday for another shot at reaching the last four and qualifying for the World Cup. Australia began its campaign with a scoreless draw against South Korea on Saturday but went on to defeat Vietnam 8-0 on Tuesday.
Takakura said, “The next match (against Australia) will be a tough one, but we would like to play as hard as possible and claim the spot for the World Cup.”