Japan to host EAFF E-1 Championship as China withdraws 

South Korea are the defending Men's EAFF E-1 Championship Winners
South Korea are the defending Men's EAFF E-1 Championship Winners
Alex Bishop

The 2022 edition of the EAFF E-1 Championship will now be played in Japan, as the original hosts China have withdrawn due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

EAFF E-1 Football Championship 2022 Finals to be staged in

The Championship will feature both a men's and women's tournament, both contested over a single-round group-stage format, with four teams in each division. The team finishing first after three games will be crowned champions of East Asia.

China, Hong Kong, Japan, and current champions South Korea make up the men's division. The women's event consists of China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and South Korea.

In previous years, the EAFF Championship had been played in the winter months with players based in Europe not being released by their clubs.

As this edition of the tournament will be played in July, fans are likely to see to high-profile talent on show. Players such as Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-Min, Liverpool's Takumi Minamino, and Arsenal's Mana Iwabuchi might be in action.

Son Heung-Min
Son Heung-Min

East Asia's build up to Qatar 2022

For Japan and South Korea, this campaign will likely serve as a Qatar 2022 warm-up exercise. Paulo Bento's Korea booked their ticket to the World Cup with a healthy 11 point lead over closest rivals UAE in the third round of AFC qualification.

The former Portugal head coach is afforded another chance to refine his best system as he prepares his side to take center-stage at Qatar 2022.

Japan's World Cup qualification campaign can be described as cagey, at best. Despite securing automatic qualification, the Samurai Blue recorded an embarrassing home defeat to Oman and managed a lackluster 1-1 draw with Vietnam.

The EAFF Championship presents head coach Hajime Moriyasu with an opportunity to consider a tactical rejig and change in personnel.

Japan v Vietnam - FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifier Final Round Group B
Japan v Vietnam - FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifier Final Round Group B

China, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with their recent decision to field an U23 team at this edition of the EAFF E-1 Championship. This follows suit with the approach taken at club level for the AFC Champions League. In that event also, Chinese sides have essentially sent their youth teams to compete against the finest senior-level talent the continent has to offer.

The resulting landslide losses have brought the integrity of the entire competition into question in some instances.

Little is expected of Hong Kong, but their presence was earned on merit. With North Korea withdrawing from the tournament, Hong Kong will proceed automatically as the next highest globally-ranked side. This will be their fourth appearance at the EAFF E-1 Championship finals.

Hong Kong will be in action in the men's event
Hong Kong will be in action in the men's event

Bragging rights back on the line in EAFF E-1 Championship

China, Japan, and South Korea have all booked their places at next year's FIFA Women's World Cup. Chinese Taipei, on the other hand, are poised to face a UEFA side in the intercontinental play-off.

In a similar fashion to the men's division, the EAFF E-1 Championship is a prime opportunity for these sides to harness their strengths. They would look to cultivate that all-important team chemistry ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, in 2023.

WHAT A GAME!!!A thrilling second-half turnaround sees China PR claim their 9th AFC Women's Asian Cup Title 🇨🇳First time for the Steel Roses since 2006!🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆#WAC2022 | #WACFinal

After emerging victorious at the Women's Asian Cup in February, China will look to solidify their status as the best women's team in Asia. The Steel Roses will prove to be a stern challenge for any opponent at the tournament.

Their ferocious striker Wang Shanshan will be leading the frontline and Tottenham's Tang Jiali will provide the creative spark in midfield.

South Korea performed well at the Asian Cup, falling only to China in the final. Colin Bell and his Taeguk Ladies will want to wash away the taste of disappointment and claim an elusive piece of silverware in Japan.

Household names such as Chelsea's Ji So-Yun and Tottenham Hotspur's Cho So-Hyun are expected to make the trip to Japan. Korea have set their eyes on winning their second EAFF E-1 Championship title.

South Korea v New Zealand - Women's International Friendly
South Korea v New Zealand - Women's International Friendly

This campaign is the second under Nadeshiko head coach Futoshi Ikeda, the first being this year's Asian Cup, where his approach was of an experimental nature.

He is now expected to arrive at a preferred starting XI and a settled system that can bring the 2011 World Champions back to their glory days. Prolific striker Riko Ueki and dynamic playmaker Mana Iwabuchi will likely play key parts in any success achieved at the EAFF Championship.

The EAFF E-1 Championship is scheduled to run from July 19-27 with venues to be announced in the coming weeks.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat


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