Given that great minds are said to think alike, it came as little surprise that Sun Wen - one of the women's game's all-time greats - differed little in her verdict on  the Four Nations Women's Championship  to the coaches who brought their teams to Guangzhou, China for the closely-fought competition.
 
With this year's  FIFA Women's World Cup  just around the corner, all four participating teams - Germany, USA, England and hosts China PR - used the tournament as a rare opportunity to take stock of their squads. The teams' tactical approaches and subtle changes certainly did not go unnoticed by Sun, who for the first time since hanging up her boots last year was able to take in the action from the comfort of the stands.
 
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, the FIFA ambassador, a veteran of every FIFA Women's World Cup to date, offered her expert analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of the four participants.
 
Striking success for US
Having lost to the USA on several occasions, including a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat in the  1999 FIFA Women's World Cup  Final, Sun was understandably disappointed to see her old foes celebrate once again as they defeated hosts China 2-0 to seal a fifth Four Nations triumph.
 
She was, however, gracious enough to admit that Greg Ryan's side looked to be the most formidable attacking outfit of the four on show. She said: "Aside from their obvious athletic strength, there are especially strong in attacking situations and I was impressed by the strike partnership formed by Heather O'Reilly and Natasha Kai, who created the second goal against China."
 
Ryan, who made the journey in the hope of finding a third recognised striker, agreed that this target had been achieved in some style. "We had a good start when Heather O'Reilly scored in the game against England and we finished well by Natasha Kai scoring today, and also Lori Chalupny scoring from distance," said the US coach, who knows his side will start as many people's favourites to reclaim the title when they return to the Far East seven months from now. "Those are very important for us because we need more players who can scores goals in addition to the two who weren't here, Abby Wambach and  Kristine Lilly ."
 
Spirit the problem for shot-shy Germans
Germany, meanwhile, proved the most miserly defence, keeping three consecutive clean sheets despite playing the last two matches without their No. 1 goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg, who could be out for six month with a knee injury. However, the fact that the reigning world champions also failed to score - racking up three straight goalless draws - left coach Silvia Neid understandably concerned about a lack of attacking bite.
 
"I was pleased with our defensive play but not our attacking game," said the German coach after a third place finish. "There were not enough combinations and too many passes went astray. The team looked a little tired."

This was a conclusion with which Sun was able to concur wholeheartedly, with the Chinese legend adding that Germany's problems lay not with their personnel, but their mentality. "I know a lot of people attributed the disappointing results to the absence of the likes Birgit Prinz, but I think the main problem was with their spirit and courage," said Sun. "In all three matches Germany produced a handful of good chances and had their strikers played with the same confidence, composure and determination as the US players showed, they should have converted at least some of those."

Hosts in transition
When discussion turned to her own team, the former China No. 9 was cautiously upbeat about their prospects. She said: "I think the coaching staff are doing the right thing as the team seems to be picking up the strengths that helped the old generation compete against the world powers: technique, pace and team play."
 
However, in a warning to those predicting glory on home soil this autumn, Sun stressed that this current period is one of transition for a Steel Roses side who may only see the fruits of their labours come the next FIFA Women's World Cup. "I saw some good passing and attacking play from the team and there are a host of talented youngsters coming through," she said. "But it is still far from perfect and it may take three-to-five years for the team to grow into world-beaters."
 
Her low-key comments were essentially echoed by Wang Haiming, the assistant who coached the team throughout the Four Nations tournament in the absence of China's ill head coach, Ma Liangxing. "Young players like Liu Sa and Lou Xiaoxu showed their talents and did a fairly good job," said Wang. "But they will need to improve a lot to compete against the world's best."
 
Smith stands out
With Sun conceding that she had not been able to analyse England in any great detail, Wang stepped in to give his verdict on  Hope Powell's side  - and was quick to single out Kelly Smith as the player who had impressed him best. "I never expected England to play so well," he admitted, "or that they would have such a gifted No. 10. She bossed her team's attacking play well against Germany and is the type of players who can dictate the patterns."

Powell herself did not hear her Chinese counterpart's complimentary verdict on Smith, but was similarly effusive on the subject of the Arsenal midfielder, who was twice named the Player of the Match at the Guangzhou Olympics Sports Centre.
 
"Kelly epitomises the way we play with her work rate and willingness to close down opponents all over the park," said Powell. "Hopefully the world will get to see what Kelly and all our squad can do this September."