Like their national senior side, the period from 2008 to 2010 saw the China U-20 team slip from being strong on the stage to struggling even at continental level. Having twice finished runners-up in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cups at Thailand 2004 and Russia 2006, the Rosebuds suffered an unexpected blow as they crashed out of Asia's qualifying for Germany 2010. Their successful qualification for Japan 2012, however, not only marks the return to the global stage, but could kick-start a bright new era for one of the game’s traditional powers.
China entered last October's AFC U-19 Women's Championship seeking to re-establish themselves and they showed their intent in the opener against a strongly-favoured Japan, taking the lead only to see the eventual tournament winners share the spoils with an injury-time equaliser. After edging past Vietnam 2-1, they played out another 1-1 draw against Germany 2010 semi-finalists Korea Republic, before overpowering Australia 3-1 to seal progression with a game to spare. With their successful campaign, a host of youth talents shone on the Asia stage, most notably Yao Shuangyan who netted three times to propel her side through.
Responsible for guiding China is Yin Tiesheng, an experienced home-grown coach who took the men’s team to the final of the 2004 AFC U-19 Championship. Having earned their place back among Asia’s best, the 55-year-old has fixed his sights on proving the team’s worth on the world stage. “It was two years of effort which paid off as we booked our return to the global showpiece,” he said. “We will try to progress beyond the group stage at Japan 2012.”
Facts and figures
Zhang Yanru, Xu Yuan, Ma Xiaoxu
Yao Shuangyan, Wang Tingting
The road to Japan
Until their 4-0 loss to Korea DPR in the closing game, China had remained undefeated with two wins and two draws, results which saw them finish third in the six-nation competition.
7 – China proved the least productive of the four qualified teams scoring only seven goals in five outings, a humble tally compared to the 13 goals scored by both Japan and Korea DPR.