AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022: From Sam Kerr to Manisha Kalyan, top players to watch out for

With the tournament beginning on 20 January, let's check out the key players to watch out for.

FP Sports January 20, 2022 11:59:47 IST
AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022: From Sam Kerr to Manisha Kalyan, top players to watch out for

Manisha Kalyan in action. Twitter @IndianFootball

The stage is set for the much-anticipated AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 that kickstarts on 20 February in Navi Mumbai.

India will be hosting the tournament only for the second time (1979 being the first) and it’s only fair to say that there will be huge expectations from the Thomas Dennerby-coached side.

Matches will be played across the Mumbai Football Arena, the DY Patil Stadium (Navi Mumbai) and the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, with the final on 6 February.

Between October and December last year, India had exposure trips to Sweden and Brazil, and although they lost all of the games during those  two tours, Manisha Kalyan’s equaliser against Brazil in a four-nation tournament caught the eyes of many across the nation.

Wing-back Dalima Chhibber admitted recently that those trips had been a learning curve for the Indian side.

For India, Kalyan, along with Chhibber will be the ones to watch out for, but who are the remaining players who could be the key for their sides?

Let’s take a look here:

Dalima Chhibber (India)

One of the most versatile players in the present India women’s team setup, Dalima Chhibber is largely employed as a right-back, but can switch to the midfield positions as well.

Since making her senior India debut against Maldives in 2016, Dalima has been a permanent figure in the team, playing a total of 29 matches and scoring two goals.

In March 2019, Dalima joined Gokulam Kerala, where she appeared five times and scored a goal. In August that year, Dalima switched to Canadian outfit Manitoba Bisons, before moving back to India in 2021 for another stint with Gokulam.

Manisha Kalyan (India)

Manisha Kalyan caught the attention with her sensational hat-trick against Pakistan in the 2019 AFC U19 Women’s Championship qualifiers. What made it more memorable is that India went onto demolish their arch-rivals with a fine margin of 18-0 victory.

Since 2018, the 20-year-old Manisha has plied trade for Gokulam Kerala, for whom she has scored seven goals in as many matches.

In 2021, Manisha became the first Indian woman to score in a top-flight Asian competition when she scored against FC Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan in the AFC Women’s Club Championship.

Manishe then went onto score a goal against Brazil during a four-nation tournament in Manaus. Despite India going down 1-6 to Brazil, Manisha later commented that playing against South American teams has given the team a lot of confidence.

Sam Kerr (Australia)

Australia’s Sam Kerr had a successful 2021, and she will be coming to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup eyeing more success.

AFC Womens Asian Cup 2022 From Sam Kerr to Manisha Kalyan top players to watch out for

The Australia skipper won the Women’s Super League and the Continental Cup with Chelsea, while leading her country to the semi-finals of the Olympics in Tokyo. AFP

Kerr represents Chelsea women in the Women’s Super League, and in a year which saw her score 40 goals and assist 18 times, she eventually finished third in the Ballon’dOr Feminin.

The Australia skipper won the Women’s Super League with Chelsea, while also leading her country to the semi-finals of the Olympics in Tokyo.

Tang Jiali (China)

One of China’s most prolific strikers, Tang Jiali plies her domestic trade with Tottenham Hotspur women’s team in the Women’s Super League.

She may have missed out on the Tokyo Olympics 2020 through injury, but she did play a pivotal part in the qualification campaign for the Games, with four strikes that included a sensational goal against Australia in a 1-1 draw.

China are the most successful side in the tournament, having lifted the trophy a record eight times, and Tang will hope to play a crucial role in their bid for a ninth title.

Saki Kumagai (Japan)

A veteran of the game with the Japanese national side, Saki Kumagai has enjoyed a lot of success in her career so far.

She represents Bayern Munich women in Germany and plays a crucial part in representing the Japanese backline.

With Olympique Lyon, Saki has won five women’s Champions League titles, while having enjoyed significant success with Japan as well.

With Japan, she won the 2011 World Cup, the Asian Games gold in 2015, Olympic silver in 2012, and Asian Cup in 2018.

Ji-So Yun (Korea Republic)

Although Ji-So Yun, the midfielder from South Korea, has won several silverware at the club level in both Japan and England, a title with the national side still remains a dream for the 30-year-old.

Ji is known for an impeccable playmaking potential as well as scoring goals.

She is an experienced campaigner, and the Chelsea player has netted a total of 37 goals from 112 appearances for the club, while also going on to score 61 goals in 125 games for the Korea Republic.

While Ji has won three titles with INAC Kobe Leonesa in Japan, she even enjoyed success with Chelsea, winning five league titles and three FA Cups since moving to the club in 2014.

Moreover, she’s won several accolades, with the most notable one being the FA Women’s Player of the Year in 2014.

Mary Fowler (Australia)

Australian forward Mary Fowler is one of those players who could be one to watch for in the long term. Having made her senior international debut at the age of 15 against Brazil in the 2018 Tournament of Nations, Mary has already won the hearts of many in Australia. She is very quick to respond to situations and has the hunger to be on the scoresheet.

Having said that, Mary has netted 17 times in just 10 matches for the Australia U20 side, while having scored five goals in 17 appearances for the senior team.

Hajar Dabbaghi (Iran)

Iran’s forward Hajar Dabbaghi could be the X-factor for her side come the Women’s Asian Cup 2022.

Dabbaghi, 22, stole the limelight at the 2019 CAFA U23 Women’s Championship, where she netted eight goals while helping Iran secure a runner-up finish.

Dabbaghi also netted five goals in Iran’s qualification campaign for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

She even netted a goal in Iran’s 5-0 win over Bangladesh in the Women’s Asian Cup qualification campaign.

She can play according to any given situation, and her accuracy inside the 18-yard box will be key for Iran, who face India in their first match on 20 January.

Pham Hai-Yen (Vietnam)

Vietnam have never advanced to the knockout stages of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and Pham Hai-Yen will hope to impress in their campaign as they aim to go as far as possible.

Pham ended the qualifying campaign as the top scorer with eight goals to her name. Pham has scored 30 goals in 44 games for the senior team, and with Vietnam placed in a tough group consisting of Japan, South Korea and Myanmar, her task will be cut out.

Zahra Muzdalifah (Indonesia)

Indonesia return to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup after 33 years, and forward Zahra Muzdalifah will be eager to make a mark in the tournament.

She caught the attention at the 2018 AFF Women’s Championship, where she netted her maiden Indonesia goal at the age of just 17 years.

Zahra proved crucial in Indonesia’s back-to-back victories over Singapore in the qualifiers. Her performance in the second match against Singapore led her to being adjudged the Player of the Match.

A popular name in football-mad Indonesia, Zahra will now get the chance to display her skills at the continental level, come the Women’s Asian Cup 2022.

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