Having represented Asia at every FIFA Women's World Cup finals and Women's Olympic Football Tournament since 1996, China have long been Asia's standard-bearers. They reached the final of Atlanta 1996 before making it to the ultimate match again at the 1999 Women's World Cup, losing both times to the host USA. The all-conquering Steel Roses in the 1990's boasted scoring great Sun Wen, midfield wizard Liu Ailing and goalkeeper Gaohong.
The current squad could not be more different from the side that finished runners-up in the USA in 1999, with none of the veterans surviving to play this time around at Beijing 2008. Instead, a host of talented youngsters are moving through to senior level with Han Duan leading the attacking line alongside striking sensation Xu Yuan. In the midfield, the creative role is filled by Bi Yan while at the back veteran captain Li Jie remains the cornerstone of the rearguard. Former coach Shang Ruihua took over the reins in April, and a new-look Steel Roses side finished runners-up in June's AFC Women's Championship.
With relatively poor results in the build-up to the Olympic Games, question marks remains as to whether China will be able to fulfill their goal of winning a medal on home soil. However, captain Li Jie vowed not to give up on the fight. "Despite the difficulties facing us, we must put the disappointment behind to show our best in the Olympic competition. I believe we can do this if we show a great deal of mental strength."
Facts and figures
Wei Haiying (1996), Sun Wen (2000)
Han Duan (striker), Xu Yuan (striker), Li Jie (defender).
China automatically qualified as hosts.
The numbers game
0: the number of times China have won a major international tournament.