Michelle Pao yesterday scored a brace as the Taiwanese women’s national team triumphed 4-1 over Iran and seized first place in Group C of the second round of the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Before yesterday’s final group match at Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha, both sides had vowed to go all-out for the win, as only the top team in each group advances to the next round of qualifying for next year’s Tokyo Games.
It was Taiwan who made the most of their opportunities to score three goals in the first half.
Attacking midfielder Pao took a pass on the left and lashed home to put Taiwan ahead in the 12th minute.
Three minutes later, she sent a short pass inside the box to striker Chen Yen-ping, who slotted past Iran goalkeeper Zahra Khajavi to double the lead.
Winger Zhuo Li-ping was chasing a through pass in the 35th minute when she collied with Khajavi, who had come out to intercept the ball.
Zhuo went down in a heap and the referee awarded Taiwan a penalty, which was met with vehement protests by Iran.
Midfielder Tseng Shu-o converted the spot-kick, firing into the top-left corner to extend Taiwan’s lead.
After the intermission, Pao capitalized on a mistake by Iran to gain possession, then beat two defenders and drove a low shot past Khajavi into the lower-left corner for her brace, lifting Taiwan to a 4-0 lead.
Iran captain Zahra Ghanbari replied in the 62nd minute, but Taiwan’s defense shut down any further attempts to secure the 4-1 victory.
“We have seen the team improve through this qualifier tournament and they have gained much valuable experience,” Taiwan head coach Kazuo Echigo said after the match. “They put on great efforts for this win.”
“We also want to especially thank Tseng Shu-o, Michelle Pao and several other key players who had to take leave from their jobs or get permission from their clubs. We are very thankful for the sacrifice of their time to play for the national team,” the Japanese said.
Taiwan advanced as leaders of Group C, along with Group A winners Myanmar and Group B leaders Vietnam.
In the third round early next year, they are to face the top seeds of Asian women’s soccer, with teams divided into two groups for round-robin competition.
Potential opponents include regional rivals China, North Korea and South Korea.
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