Hong Kong’s women’s representative football team got off to a solid start in their AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifying campaign, earning a 0-0 draw with Nepal in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The result means that Hong Kong now face the Philippines in a battle for top spot and a chance to end what is an 18-year wait to play in the continental competition and will be 19 years by India 2022.
Hong Kong coach Ricardo Rambo described it as a “difficult match” because of a number of factors that saw him select an inexperienced squad with a lack of preparation matches.
“We had a completely new squad this time. Match time and a new team were both a challenge on our preparation, but I’m happy with our players’ effort. For some of them it was the first time played and they are new to the team.
“Nepal had a strong team who played three tough matches before facing us. Their match fitness was better prepared so they dominated the game but we stuck to our plan and we did well in defence, though we could create more in attack.”
Tuesday’s goalless draw means that Nepal are out of the group after playing both of their games, having lost the first match 2-1 against the Philippines.
Nepal, who were set to host the qualifiers before they were relocated to Tashkent over Covid-19 concerns, were 1-0 up against the Philippines thanks to a 10th minute header from Bimala Chaudhary.
The team ranked No 101 by Fifa held on to their lead as late as the 89th minute against the Malditas before a late comeback.
Tahnai Annis levelled in the 89th minute for the No 68 ranked Philippines before Camille Wilson broke Nepali hearts with a stoppage time winner.
Hong Kong, who are ranked No 76 in the world by Fifa, face the Philippines next on Friday with top spot in group F at stake and passage through to next year’s continental showpiece in India.
A win for Ricardo Rambo’s Hong Kong side will see them through, while a draw is good enough to guarantee the Philippines a place at their 10th AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Rambo was happy with the point as his team look for a 15th Asian Cup appearance, though none have come since the 14th edition of the tournament in 2003.
He knows that the Malditas will be a difficult match.
“Phillipines are another strong challenge. Formed with some experienced players from the US, they are quicker and have good finishing. We are positive to perform well and achieve our goal.”
Hong Kong and the Philippines played out a 1-1 draw in a friendly at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground in September, 2019.