A recurring name throughout the history of women’s international football is China PR. From being hosts of the first FIFA Women’s World Cup™ tournament in 1991 to their role in the famous 1999 Final, the Steel Roses have often been prominent. And now, after surprisingly failing to qualify for Germany 2011, they are back as a major player in the international arena.
China reached the quarter-finals with a hard-earned victory over a physically intimidating Cameroon, having previously survived a tough Group A. A recurring theme throughout all four matches has been their resilience, a trademark feature of the Steel Roses during their glory days. It is a characteristic that could prove critical in Friday’s last-eight match-up against USA as the pair meet for the first time at this level since that 1999 decider.
“It was a critical match for us and we were warriors,” Shanshan Wang told FIFA.com after the win over Cameroon. “And we are improving match by match. We adapt each match to our rivals with different styles of football,” added Wang, a pacy forward who scored the winner against the Indomitable Lionesses last Saturday. “We all want to get to the final. That has to be everyone’s goal but we are not pressuring ourselves .”
I was in primary school, but I remember watching it very well. That was when my dream started.
Wang, like many Chinese remembers the 1999 Final vividly, albeit with mixed feelings given her nation’s narrow penalty shoot-out defeat in Los Angeles. “I was in primary school, but I remember watching it very well. That was when my dream started, when China played so well to reach the World Cup final. Sun Wen was my favourite player and my hero at that time.”
China have never defeated USA in three attempts at the Women’s World Cup, but they are well placed to break that run heading into the match-up in Ottawa. The fact that the Stars and Stripes will have key midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe suspended just adds to the intrigue.
China midfielder Shuang Wang says her team is growing with each outing. “I feel we are getting better and better with every match that we play. In the first game we were nervous, then the second game we were more relaxed, and in the third we got rid of more and more nerves.
“We watched USA play and saw their strengths as well as their weaknesses, so in our next match we will use our strengths against their weaknesses. Their strengths are that they are physically strong, and they attack and defend fast. Their weaknesses are certain aspects in their defence, like how they turn, and that will be our focus.”
Now China have the opportunity to write one of the most colourful chapters in their storied history. And the new generation of young players are not just intent on achieving success, but also re-establishing the nation’s status on the global stage. “I hope we can show the world what we have got and impress the audience with our performance,” said captain Haiyan Wu. “We want to let them know that China is a very good team.”