China PR

The past
Despite suffering a downward spiral over the past decade, the women's game remains a strength of Chinese football. The world's most populous nation boast a proud record at junior level, with their sides finishing runners-up in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup at Thailand 2004 and again at Russia 2006. The Chinese, however, have since failed to progress beyond the group phase. The Steel Rosebuds suffered an early exit in a hard group also featuring eventual champions USA and semi-finalists France at Chile 2008 and, after missing qualification for Germany 2010, they were eliminated in the group stage once again at Japan 2012.

The present
China PR’s tumultuous qualifying campaign was probably an accurate reflection of their current status. They opened brightly by negotiating a 2-2 draw against fast-developing Korea Republic on home soil. Despite narrowly losing out to Korea DPR 1-0, the Chinese earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over Australia, before drawing 2-2 against Japan. Wang Jun's charges wrapped up with a resounding 8-0 demolition of Myanmar to seal third place and qualification. "The Australia defeat was crucial for us," said coach Wang reflecting on their campaign, "We are now in the World Cup, but there is still a long way to go for us to prepare for the World Cup and compete against the world's best."

The future
Former Tianjin Teda player, Wang Jun has focused on youth development in the women's game since turning to coaching a decade ago. He took Tianjin team to the China's Women's FA Cup crown two years ago, and also guided the city's youth side to the third place in the National City's Sports Games the same year. Under him, the U-20 national team has made progress in both fitness and technique. The talents he has nurtured include forward Wang Shuang, who completed a brace against Australia.