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AFC Asian Cup: Stars to watch in the competition

The 2022 edition of the AFC Women's Asian Cup is hours away from kick-off as India is set to host Asia's greatest competition for women's football. Check out here stars to watch out for in the competition.

MB
Last updated: 19.01.2022
AFC Asian Cup Stars to watch in the competition

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The 2022 edition of the AFC Women's Asian Cup is hours away from kick-off as India is set to host Asia's greatest competition for women's football for only the second time. The competition will begin on 20th January and will run for three weeks before the final on 6th February. For the first time, the final tournament has been extended from eight teams to twelve. 


As usual, the 20th edition of the Asian Cup will showcase some well renowned and talented superstars from women's football. Most of these footballers are plying their trade in Europe, in England for top clubs in top divisions. Internationally, they have gained experience by appearing in this competition previously and being the talisman for their nation. Stars are unfazed by the expectations and pressure the stage brings. These are some of the names which will be on everyone's lips ahead and during the tournament. The following list contains established stars of their nation and also future talents pushing to make a platform of their own. 


6) Zahra Muzdalifah (Indonesia) 

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Zahra is probably a name that doesn't resonate around Asia while naming current stars of the continent but the 20-year-old is willing to be in the conversation sooner than later in the future. Playing as a forward for the Indonesian senior women's football team, Zahra has now got a chance to display her talent in a coveted competition. She scored her first international goal for her nation in the 2018 AFF Women's Championship and also netted twice in the Asian Games on home soil of the same year. Muzdalifah quickly became a household name in her homeland after her exploits with Perija Putri in Liga 1 Putri. Indonesia are touted to be in the latter stages of the Asian Cup so this is the perfect stage for Zahra to display her skills. 


5) Hajar Dabbaghi (Iran)



Iran sealed their first-ever qualification to the Asian Cup displaying tough football in outsmarting Bangladesh and Jordan in the finals of the qualifiers. Although their style is more pragmatic, the Western Asian nation are well built-in their attack too. 22-year-old Hajar Dabbaghi is an example of that. The forward has scored a plethora of goals in the qualifiers where she found the net five times. Her first goals for the senior national team came in the qualifiers themselves. Dabbaghi caught the eye during the U23 CAFA Women's Championship by earning the top scorer award. An intelligent and adaptive striker in the box plying her trade for Sephan SC, Hajar is aspiring to the side nicknamed 'Team Melli Baanovan' to make their debut competition a special one. 


4)  Manisha Kalyan (India) 



Host India will miss the service of the Rangers FC forward Bala Devi due to injury. In her absence, it is up to the first Indian female goalscorer in the AFC club competition, Manisha Kalyan to took up the mantle and help the forward line in getting goals. The left-winger scored a historical goal against Brazil last year but her meteoric rise happened after she received the AIFF emerging player of the year award in the 2020-21 season. Manisha delivered eye-catching performances in the AFC U19 Women Championship before netting in his senior debut for the national team only last October. Aged only 20, Kalyan will be playing the first major competition of her international career and will be trusting her pace & trickery to craft a fairy tale story for the 'Blue Tigresses'. 


3) So-Yun Ji (South Korea) 



Chelsea midfielder, So-Yun Ji is the face of the South Korea women's team for the 2022 Asian Cup. She is representing the national side from the U17 level and has gone on to become the top goalscorer with 58 goals to her name. So-Yun Ji is regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world while performing her role elegantly with Chelsea. She won the 2020/21 WSL title with the Blues having won the league and cup double back in 2015 amid other individual accolades. Her anchoring role keeps the balance intact. However, South Korea haven't got the desired success internationally despite fielding strong teams in this competition. Ji is determined to roll up her sleeves for this once as the experienced 30 year old wants to finally quench the thirst for a trophy for her country. 


2) Mana Iwabuchi (Japan) 



Japan are wishing to make it three out of three in the 2022 edition of the Asian Cup after being the holders for the second consecutive time. To make it a reality, Arsenal's Mana Iwabuchi will flaunt her class again after doing so for the nation since she was 16. Known as  'Manadona' in her homeland, the face of the Japan Women's team is a tournament player. Iwabuchi was part of the 2011 FIFA World Cup-winning squad, won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and the gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games. She has earned 82 caps for her side till now. After winning numerous titles in Japan, Iwabuchi went to Aston Villa, Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim, and now at Arsenal. Mana now wants to add this trophy to her collection in her second appearance for the tournament. 


1) Sam Kerr (Australia) 



Arguably the most high-profile name in the competition, Samantha Kerr will be doing it all to secure the prize for favorites Australia after guiding them to the semifinal spot in the Olympics last year. She is also just one goal shy of hitting the 50th mark for her country.  For Chelsea, Karr displayed stellar form by reaching the Champions League final last season and winning the cup & the league title in the 2019/20 campaign. Aside from her glamorous records at the club level, the 28-year-old competed in three FIFA World Cups including winning the Asian Cup in 2010 hosted by China then. Another thing Kerr likes is to top the goal-scoring chart having to be the only female player to win the Golden Boot in three different leagues.  She will be eyeing for the same in her fourth Asian Cup appearance. 

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