Hosts' hopes in Loisel's hands
© AFP

Frenchwoman Elisabeth Loisel became the new coach of the China PR women's team on Sunday as she emerged the winner from an esteemed shortlist which included the likes of former USA coach April Heinrichs and Brazilian Jorge Barcellos.

It was on Tuesday that the China Football Association (CFA) parted company with Marika Domanski-Lyfors' and it took only five days for the former France boss to be announced as the Swede's successor. By accepting the job, Loisel - the sixth head coach Steel Roses have had since their disappointing USA 2003 campaign - has also taken on arguably the toughest test of her coaching career with an assault on the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 lying ahead.

"We are a young team but the players are not short of talent," she said to the local media in her first press conference as China coach on Sunday. "There are only three medals for grabs at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament and the competition will predictably be tough. We will do our best to achieve a good result."

Footballing pedigree
At the age of 44, Loisel boasts an impressive coaching CV. In her ten-year tenure in the France hot-seat, her team made tremendous progress, shown by a rise from 16th to fifth in the FIFA Women's World Ranking.

"My footballing career dates back to 28 years ago," she explained. "I played football for nine years before assuming an assistant coaching role which lasted for eleven years. My coaching experience culminated with the French national team when I was the head coach from 1997 to 2007."

Loisel's technique approach could be another reason that helped her win the hearts of her Chinese paymasters as she is planning to build the Steel Roses into a technically strong team, which fits CFA's criteria for the position. "I would go for the Brazilian football as they have excessively outstanding technique," she explained. "Who doesn't favour Marta? I hope there will be a Chinese Marta coming through soon in my tenure."

Daunting tasks
Loisel will begin her Chinese adventure with a training camp starting at the end of the month at Wuhan, the same city in which her predecessor Domanski-Lyfors took over nearly seven months ago. With expectations already high and less than 300 days until the Beijing Olympics kick off, the pressure is on the new coach to lead China, who are currently ranked 13th in the world, to the top three at the global event.

On home soil, China failed to reach the last four at the recent FIFA Women's World Cup but Loisel is optimistic about the future. "I watched the team play during the Women's World Cup as one of the FIFA Technical Study Group member," she said. "The players are technically good and several of them impressed me. From this point of view I think I can employ nearly the same approach to the Chinese team as I did with France."