Kuala Lumpur: Asia's finest U-19 women's teams will be in action at the AFC U-19 Women's Championships in Nanjing, China over the next two weeks. the-AFC.com profiles the coach plotting Japan's defence of the title won in 2015 and the seven determined to end their reign.
China PR – Hesterine de Reus
Chasing their first AFC U-19 Women’s Championship crown since 2006, the hosts have enlisted the highly experienced Hesterine de Reus.
The Dutch mentor represented her country over 40 times as a player, before embarking on a coaching career which included spells in charge of Australia and Jordan’s senior women’s national teams.
de Reus has also coached PSV Eindhoven, as well as Dutch national teams at several age categories, and served as technical observer at the recent UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 Finals in her home country.
DPR Korea – Thomas Gerstner (GER)
A veteran of 15 years of professional football in his home country Germany, Gerstner takes the reigns of a DPR Korea side that are the current FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup holders.
DPR Korea will be hoping to add the AFC U-19 Women's Championship crown to the AFC U-16 Women's Championship title they won last month.
Since retiring from playing in 2001, Gerstner has coached a number of clubs in the German football pyramid, with Kickers Offenbach – then in the third tier – his last senior role.
The 50-year-old is one of two veterans of German football to take key roles within DPR Korea football in recent times, with the Norweigan, former Bundesliga top-scorer Jorn Andersen now in charge of the men’s senior national team.
Thailand – Nuengrutai Srathongvian (THA)
Nuengrutai has taken charge of Thai teams ranging from U-14s to the senior women’s national team in a coaching career which has spanned over a decade.
Her crowning achievement came when she led Thailand’s senior women’s national team to their first ever World Cup, where they made history by earning a win over Cote d’Ivoire in 2015.
In what was a hectic 2015, she was also at the helm when Thailand failed to progress beyond the group stage in the U-19 Women’s Championship, but took her country to the continental semi-finals at U-16 level later that year.
Uzbekistan - Bahrom Norsafarov (UZB)
The man who led Uzbekistan to the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Wuhan two years ago, Norsafarov guided the Central Asians to the Finals with impressive qualifying wins over Tajikistan, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.
The 51-year-old is also an assistant coach for the senior women’s national team, and sat on the bench for their unsuccessful AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Pyongyang earlier this year.
AFC U-19 WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP CHINA 2017: PLAYERS TO WATCH
Japan – Ikeda Futoshi
A defender who played over 50 times in the early years of the J-League with Urawa Red Diamonds, Ikeda was part of the coaching staff when the Saitama-based club won the AFC Champions League in 2007.
He would go on to become the club’s assistant coach before taking the reigns as a caretaker at Avispa Fukuoka in 2012.
The 47-year-old has overseen a successful build-up, including an away win against the United States in May, and has emphasised the value of positive energy as Japan search for a fifth AFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
Korea Republic – Jong Song-chon
Returning to the tournament for the third time, Jong is the only head coach in this year’s edition to have already won the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
He achieved the feat in 2013, when Jang Sel-gi scored eight goals to power Korea Republic to their first title.
That team would go on to reach the last eight of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup the following year, and Jong would again lead the Koreans to qualification for the 2016 global championship in Papua New Guinea.
The 46-year-old was also the assistant coach when the senior Korea Republic team secured qualification for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Pyongyang earlier this year.
Australia – Gary van Egmond (AUS)
A full Australian international in the 1980s, van Egmond has won national league titles as both a player and a coach.
He made history by sensationally leading Newcastle Jets to their only A-League championship in 2008 – a feat which won him A-League Coach of the Year honours – before taking the club to the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League the following year, a feat which has never been repeated.
The former Roda JC player is also the assistant coach of Australia’s senior women’s national team, for whom his daughter Emily is a star midfielder, with 66 caps to her name.
Vietnam – Vu Ba Dong
A long-time servant of Vietnamese women’s football, Vu Da Bong was the nation’s head coach at the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and has remained an assistant ever since.
The 60-year-old was on the bench when Mai Duc Chung’s side impressively qualified for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in April, before the team went on to claim a gold medal at the SEA Games in August.
This is his third participation in the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship, but the first time he will take charge at the tournament Finals – with Vietnam failing to qualify for the 2007 and 2011 editions, for which he was head coach.
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Photos: FIFA/Getty Images, UEFA.com, Lagardère Sports, Japan Football Association, AFC