Sun Bin, a descendant of the famous Master Sun and the author of the Art of the War, was an ancient Chinese strategist renowned for victories against stronger opposition. Perhaps China PR coach Wang Jun will draw inspiration from the ancient strategist as his side aim to defy the odds in August's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Canada 2014. The Steel Rosebuds have been drawn into a remarkably tough group alongside three-time victors USA, twice-champions Germany and South American powerhouse Brazil.
Despite the hard opposition the former Tianjin Teda midfielder believes his charges can spring a surprise. "It goes without saying that we are in a very tough group," the 37-year-old told FIFA.com. "All of our opponents are world-class powers and we must prepare ourselves well against them. Though, in football no team is invincible. We can pull off satisfying results if we play with proper strategies.
"Obviously the Americans and Germans are favourites of the group so the opener against Brazil comes as a must-win for us if we are to progress. We will try not to lose against Germany in the second match, before focusing on the concluder against US which will probably come as a do-or-die."
A holding-midfielder renowned for exceptional vision during his playing career, Wang put emphasis on the tactical side when he assumed the national team reins last year. Since learning the identity of their opponents at March's draw, the team have worked against the clock to prepare. To the manager's delight, they have gained precious experiences against the section's two-top sides in the build-up.
"Coincidentally, we had arranged friendlies against US during an American training camp before the draw," Wang continued. "We lost the first warm-up against the Americans 3-0 when we had learnt that the two teams have been drawn together. We lost the second match again, 5-1, but the games provide us with lessons we should learn. I hope it will be a different game when we meet again (at Canada 2014)."
In football no team is invincible. We can pull off satisfying results if we play with proper strategies.
In April the team travelled to Germany to play a series of friendlies against four Frauen Bundesliga sides, including losing 2-1 to the senior Leverkusen side which features four German national team players. Adding to the experiences, Wang took time to watch a training match played by their prospective German opponents.
"Germany should be the most physically strong team in the group and they are also very well-organised," Wang admitted. "We should capitalise on our techniques and pace to counter them. We must try to control through possession and be fast between attacking and counter-attacking. They are overall good, so we should try to seek a chink in the armour."
Brazil remain an unknown side with neither video clips, nor technical descriptions available to the team so far. However, Wang says underestimating the South Americans' technical finesse will be at their own peril. He said: "The past experiences are that the Brazilians are good players. They can pose a threat by putting in some nice individual performances. So we should maintain our positional play and stay strong against them as a team."
While everything seems to be going smoothly, it is an injury to top-striker Wang Shuang that has caused the coach most concern. "She has not been with us since she underwent a foot surgery last month," he said of the Korean Republic-based forward, who scored five times as China sealed qualification for the global showpiece in last October's AFC U-19 Women's Championship. "I hope she can find fitness and return to her best form soon."
The team will spend the second half of May in a training camp, during which they will concentrate on solving both technical and tactical problems uncovered in the United States and Germany. A one-month camp will follow in June, with the team to figure out specific game plans against the group rivals.
"We are under no illusions about the tasks facing us," Wang concluded. "In a sense this is the toughest group of this tournament. But I believe in our players and we will try to progress to the next round. In the long run, we are nurturing players who will become the core of the future China team."