Football: Asia and Singapore can contend for top honours in women's football, says Dodd

Asia is football mad, yet it lags far behind the likes of Europe and South America as a hotbed for top footballers.

To be precise, male footballers. Because when it comes to women's football, the most populous continent has several nations who are powerhouses in the game.

For example, Japan are the reigning Fifa Women's World Cup champions, while China were runners-up in the competition in 1999.

The two sides will feature in this June's finals in Canada together with Thailand, who are making a breakthrough as they will become the first South-east Asian nation to reach the World Cup Finals in its 24-year history.

And Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) vice-president Moya Dodd believes that Asian nations are primed for strong showings again at the upcoming finals.

"We've learnt in 2011 that anything is possible for Asian teams and they can be champions," the Australian told The Sunday Times at Fairmont Singapore during a stopover yesterday morning.

"They have been very competitive and I expect them to continue doing so at the upcoming finals."

But Dodd also sounded a note of caution, citing nations like France and Italy who are likely to make the challenge for Asia a greater one in the future.

"Women's football is still fairly young at organised international level, so the field is open for those who improve rapidly to turn up and take a trophy when no one expects them to," noted the 49-year-old, who also chairs AFC's women's committee.

"But I also think traditional nations left the door open for others to come and take the lead.

"(So) there are huge opportunities for them when they really step on the accelerator, making the game go to another level.

"Germany is a great example of a football power which has always paid a great deal of attention to their game - they are No. 1 in both the men's and women's rankings for a good reason."

South Korea and Australia will complete AFC's quintet of representatives at this year's finals, sparking hope that one day, Singapore can also make its mark on the international arena.

Citing the example of Costa Rica, who made it to last year's men's World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil despite a small population, Dodd was optimistic that the quality of training programmes and dedicated local coaches can take Singapore's game to new heights.

"You can never rule anything out in football," she added. "The quality of the training environment and the national team programme built for even a small player base can be immensely successful."