Li Ying, Steel Roses' unsung heroine

  • ​Li Ying has struck five times from three matches in this Asian Cup

  • She and China PR are aiming to win their ninth Asian title

  • The in-form striker expects to break her World Cup duck

Li Ying has caught the eye at the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup in Jordan with her powerful shots, goalscoring prowess and, not to mention, her striking, highlighted hair.

The China PR No10 did in a sense set the continental stage alight through her goalscoring form as her side sealed smooth qualification to the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™.

She has scored five goals in their first three matches, figures that show her emergence as a promising goal-getter not only for China but in all of Asia. While her performances have earned recognition by media and fans alike, Ying opted to downplay her prolific form.

"I just did my job," the 25-year-old told after their qualifying mission was done. "My goals should first be attributed to our good team work. Besides, our group opponents are not so strong and we were expected to win."

“The next game should be a real test for me," she went on, citing the semi-final clash against none other than reigning champions Japan. "You can only prove yourself when you play against strong opposition. We have come here aiming not only to book a ticket to the Women's World cup but also to win the championship."

Training with boys Ying's goals have showcased her powerful shot, which has proven to be unstoppable to the goalkeepers she has faced in Jordan so far. A standout moment came in the opening match against Thailand when Ying found space in the penalty area before unleashing a lightning-quick shot past the keeper, setting China on their way to a 4-0 victory.

"Ying is spectacular," her former club coach Li Huajun once commented on her goal-scoring techniques. "She is always thirsty for scoring goals and she can score through either a diving header or a bicycle-kick."

He was proved right. Born in Chongqing, Ying was spotted by a football coach from her middle school. But with no girls teams to join, she had to train and play with a boys team. The early experiences made her stand out when she was signed by Hangzhou Club to start her professional career.

"Football is a game of competition and perhaps because of playing and training with boys for some years, I am not afraid of tough opposition. I never give up and I push myself to the limit to score and win," she said.

Ying's talents didn't go unnoticed as she was recruited by the national youth team, and she made her FIFA tournament debut at the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan. An expected national senior call-up followed shortly after with Ying appearing in her first FIFA Women's World Cup at Canada 2015.

Goals for France 2019 Just as she was making consistent progress and developing her game, she suffered a series of critical injuries. "I always gave my all on the pitch. So my style of play made me injury-prone. I was indeed very sad each time I was sidelined due to injury. But that is part of the game. I tried my best to come back and to maintain my form."

"The competition in our team is big. In fact, we have several very good forwards and everyone has her own strengths and attributes. I may not be the best striker of my team but I must be the one who works the hardest.”

Having experienced so many ups and downs, Ying has come of age with her newly-rediscovered form. Boosted by their successful qualification for France 2019, she is naturally hoping to break her Women’s World Cup duck. "As a player, you need to set a new goal for each tournament you are in. I failed to find the back of the net at the last Women's World Cup so now my goals for France 2019 are to score my first Women’s World Cup goals and help my team to a satisfying result."