A fan of Chinese culture for many years, it was a dream come true for Frenchwoman Elisabeth Loisel to settle down in the country after her appointment as the fifth foreign coach in charge of the China PR women's team. However, as the atmosphere mounts just over seven months away from the Women's Olympic Football Tournament, so too does the pressure to lead the Chinese through to the last four at Beijing 2008.
FIFA.com sat down with the former France coach to talk about her new job and the team's prospects.
FIFA.com: Elisabeth, how does it feel being the China
Elisabeth Loisel: You can't help but feeling proud to coach the national team of the world's most populous nation. The Chinese women's team have long been established as one of the world's powers and I am happy to coach a side that boasts a strong footballing tradition and international pedigree.
What were your reasons for taking over from Marika
Domanski-Lyfors in late October?
It is many years since I got interested in China, long before I was given the Chinese women's team job offer. I got obsessed with the nation's cultures and everything a long time ago and now I have been a China fan for a while. So it came as no surprise that I gave the nod quickly after I had the chance.
You got your stint with the Steel Roses off to a flying
start with two recent friendly defeats of New Zealand, which must
have come as a tremendous boost for you and your team?
It was indeed a morale-booster for the players, particularly with victories against a Women's World Cup team. New Zealand were limited to fewer chances and zero goals in the two friendlies and on the contrary, my team put in brilliant performances, particularly in the second match. The team displayed good techniques and disciplined play and they will become more competitive should they gain better physical energy and fitness.
After two months in charge of China, what is your
assessment of the team?
It is generally a good team, especially when it comes to individual skills. The players' good techniques and fast speed ensure them to be able to play good passing games.
In which areas do you think China can improve?
The players need to be more creative and imaginative to produce more chances. They should work hard to improve their finishing touches and I hope they can score more goals from headers. We may have three averagely good goalkeepers but none of them are superbly good. We need one of them to become a consistently dependable number one.
Next up for China is the Four-Nation Women's
Championship and the Algarve Cup. What targets have your set for
your team and for yourself ahead of these competitions?
As a coach I wish my team to win every game but our long-term goal is to do well in this August's Olympic Games in Beijing. We will do our best to achieve good results while taking the tournaments as a good chance to prepare us ahead of the Olympic tests.
Top striker Ma Xiaoxu picked ruptured a knee ligament in
the second friendly against New Zealand. How long will it take for
her to fully recover? Does this add further difficulties to your
options up front?
It should be her doctor answering your question from the medical perspectives (smiles), while I would say I hope she recovers and returns to the team as quickly as possible. I have reached a secret agreement with her that she must come back and play a key role in time of the Olympics Games.
China failed to reach the semi-finals at last year's
FIFA Women's World Cup. What should the team do to protect its
traditional edge in the women's game, where the competition is
One of the most effective ways is to play as many as possible games against strong teams to discover your mistakes because a team learn to improve from their mistakes. The players must also learn to feel strong against the world's best and without the self-esteem and confidence no one can win any game.
Are you optimistic to lead China through to the last four
in next August's Olympic Games when they play as hosts?
When I took over the team in October, I was given ten months' time to prepare the host side whose target is reaching the last four of the Women's Football Tournament at Beijing 2008. Despite the tight time I believe my team have plenty of reasons to achieve our goal and I hope my time in charge of China will be a memorable page in my coaching career and that China have a successful Olympic campaign.