Next team out in group B of the Women’s World Cup is China, a former powerhouse on the international football scene who are now looking to reestablish themselves as one of the big names.
China’s golden generation, who reached the World Cup final in 1999, is still fondly remembered. The game was, to this day, the most well-attended women’s sports event in history, with an official attendance of 90,185. The game was scoreless after full time and extra time, and the US won on penalties. China has continued to do well since, and every World Cup that they’ve qualified to since they’ve ended up in the quarterfinals, but they’ve not been able to get further than that. The Steel Roses, as they are called, had a very straightforward way to qualify for this World Cup. They played in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where they beat Thailand 4-0 and the Philippines 3-1, to become the first team (after France, who qualified automatically in their role as hosts) to qualify for the tournament. China then went on to beat Jordan, before losing to Japan in the semifinal but beating Thailand again in the bronze match.
The Chinese team are emphasising the importance of teamwork, and it is an ethos that they all seem to be onboard with. But even so, some players are standing out a little extra, and the shining star in the team is Li Ying. The 26-year-old striker is in-form, during the Asian Cup she scored seven goals in five games and she has become a vital cog in the Chinese attack. With her powerful shots and her goalscoring excellence she stands out in the squad, but the fierce attacker is also humble and underlines the importance of goals being a team effort. It is quite a young team that coach Jia Xiuquan has quite young influences in his team, illustrated by 20-year-old Shimeng Peng in goals, who’s put in a great effort so far, as well as the more experienced Lina Zhao. Duan Song and Shuang Wang have also been quite effective up front, scoring quite a few goals between them, and in defence, Xiuquan has got the likes of Haiyan Wu and Shanshan Wang.
It remains to be seen which formations Xiuquan want his team to play in, but the former coach, Sigurður “Siggi” Eyjólfsson, often put his team up in a 4-2-3-1, enabling the team to build up pressure and leaving the goalscorers Ying, Song and Wang to do their thing. New coach Xiuquan is a household name in China and he used to be quite a footballer in his time, representing his national team and playing in several clubs in China, as well as abroad. He’s one of the most successful ‘homegrown’ managers in the country, and he’s managed several top clubs and national youth teams, but this will be the first women’s team that he has coached. Xiuquan has good vision and has already identified how some of China’s opponents in the World Cup might be playing, and he acknowledges that the team has a lot to learn in terms of tactics – but emphasises that tactics are nothing without teamwork.
“We need to employ proper tactics to make sure the team is strong as a unit. Every player is required to play with fighting spirit and show teamwork. They should understand the tactical approach and play as a unit. Of course, European and American players are physically stronger and technically better than us. So we will use our fast pace and fast responses to counter them,” he said.
The Chinese team have a few games coming up. They just played Korea and Nigeria in the Four Nation’s tournament, winning both games, and are scheduled to take part in Algarve Cup that will commence on the 1st of March, as China kicks off against Norway. After that, they are scheduled to meet Denmark on the 4th of March.
That’s a wrap on the Chinese team. They’ve got quite a tough group, but are also quite tough themselves. Do you think they have a chance of making it out of the group, and on the expense of who? Fire up the comment section below!