By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will face two-time defending champions Japan in the group stage of Asia's top women's football tournament in January.
In the draw for the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Asian Cup held Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, the 18th-ranked South Korea ended up in Group C with No. 13 Japan, No. 32 Vietnam and No. 46 Myanmar.
There are three groups of four in the tournament, which will run from Jan. 20 to Feb. 6 in India. The top two teams from each group, plus the two-best third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.
The competition will also double as the regional qualification for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. The top five nations from the Women's Asian Cup will qualify for the World Cup, while two more teams will end up in the intercontinental playoffs.
South Korea will first play Vietnam on Jan. 22, followed by Myanmar on Jan. 25 and Japan on Jan. 28.
Coached by Colin Bell, South Korea have never won the Asian Cup. Their best performance is the third-place showing in 2003.
Japan won the 2014 and 2018 tournaments, beating Australia in the final on both occasions. South Korea have had four wins, 10 draws and 17 losses against Japan so far.
"We know that Japan have been the best team in Asia for a number of years," Bell said of the 2011 Women's World Cup champions. "It's a top nation in women's football, with very intelligent players and very technically gifted players."
But Bell said he wants to focus on the first match against Vietnam before worrying about Japan.
"When you have these kinds of draws, the most important thing is the first game," Bell said. "We saw in the Olympic qualification that they had a couple of dangerous players. It's now a full focus on Vietnam. We need to be well prepared, not underestimate anybody and just make sure we get through the group stage in a good manner.
South Korea have been perfect against Vietnam, winning all 11 matches. Their most recent meeting ended in a 3-0 victory for South Korea in an Olympic qualifier in February 2020.
South Korea also have won all six matches against Myanmar, most recently beating them 7-0 in an Olympic qualifying match in February last year.
South Korea just returned from a trip to the United States, where they played two friendlies against the top-ranked Americans in preparation for the Asian Cup. South Korea had a scoreless draw last Thursday but lost 6-0 on Tuesday.