The Asian side are making their first ever appearance at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, but their dominance at the Dalga Arena on Sunday has shot them from unknown quantities to potential contenders. Jiang even feels they have more in the tank, calling for “the whole team to improve”.
“We were a little bit nervous and we didn’t perform very well today,” she told FIFA.com, despite controlling the game throughout. “We had no expectations before the game, but we just feel we should perform to the level we do in practice.”
“This is the first time we have qualified for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and we have much to improve in the future, especially in training, so we must work harder so that we can perform better in future games.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by coach Zhang Chonglai, though he let provided sliver of contentment following the victory. “There are many things we need to improve in the next games,” he told FIFA.com.
“I am satisfied with our performance today, especially because it was the first match in this tournament and we were under great pressure to perform. Our team are still improving step-by-step, so we are just focusing on the next game and expect to get better in the end.”
Their upcoming matches in Group D should pose tougher tests against more seasoned youth sides in Germany and Ghana, but the European champions and talented African team will certainly have sat up and paid attention to China’s flowing performance.
Packing the midfield with a series of talented technicians saw Uruguay claim less than 40 per cent possession while the likes of wide players Song Duan and Zhang Zhu, coupled with Lu Yeuyun in the middle, attacked at will.
The latter was supreme and serene in equal measure. Poised on the ball and spreading play out to the wings at will, which saw the Uruguayan defenders dragged around the pitch. She hit the bar early on before getting a richly deserved goal in the closing minutes of the game, provided expertly by Jiang’s Henan Steel team-mate Lei Jiahui.
While rarely troubled, Jiang and centre-back partner Wang Xi were imperious and assured in defence, but they can expect their afternoon to be less comfortable against the 2012 UEFA U17 Women’s Championship winners.
It’s a fact that Jiang is prepared for when the pair meet at the Bayil Stadium tomorrow, but feels the occasion will bring out the best in them. “Our next match is against Germany and it inspires us a lot. Women’s football in Germany is strong in all aspects and, as we’ve never played against them before, they will be a new challenge for us.”
The fact that China only scraped through qualification shows the wealth of quality currently on show in Asia. They finished ahead of Korea Republic thanks to a superior goal difference, behind Korea DPR and Japan, who have since registered stunning 11-0 and 5-0 victories in their first games at Azerbaijan 2012.
Sitting in the shadow of these great sides is motivating Jiang to take their football forward, saying: “Chinese football is at its lowest position, we hope with our team we can help move football in China upwards.”
If their performances improve like she hopes, they may just do that.