The Chinese women's national team may have struggled against Germany again, but the newly-organised Steel Roses lifted the Four-nation Women's Tournament in Qiaozhou according to the tie-break rules of the tournament.
China finished level with Australia on six points and two clear goals, but won the competition as they beat their nearest contenders in the previous match. Germany were left behind in third on goal difference, with Russia packing for home empty-handed, conceding nine goals in three matches while only scoring once.
In a pre-match interview with FIFA.com, China's interim coach Wang Haiming, who guided the Steel Rosebuds to runners-up in last November's FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship, stressed his theme was to observe new players and improve their defence. Despite the 2-0 defeat to Germany, he was obviously pleased with his team's performances.
"It is good we won the title - that will definitely boost the morale of the team, but the results are not the most important thing," he said. "I am even happier to see them play so valiantly as a team. It is noticeable that they have improved through the tests."
*A much-anticipated encounter *Germany, including FIFA Player of the Year 2004 Birgit Prinz, who scored four of their eight goals against China at Athens last August, proved the toughest opponents for China in their attempt to win their first title in the fifth edition of the tournament. The re-match, not surprisingly, was dubbed as "a match of revenge" for the Steel Roses by the local media.
Before the final match, China got off to the best possible start with a 3-1 opening win over Russia, followed by a 3-0 demolition of Australia, while Germany looked a shadow of their normal selves, losing 1-0 to a gusty Australia and only managing a narrow 1-0 win over Russia.
Despite a vociferous crowd behind the Steel Roses, it was the visitors who took the lead after only seven minutes courtesy of a blistering shot from outside the area by Britta Carlson. Only 14 minutes later Germany doubled the lead as Renate Lingor's deflected free-kick flew past Zhang Yanru into the roof of the net. This was all but a carbon copy of the Steel Rosebuds' 2-0 loss to Germany in the youth final in Bangkok last December.
The hosts hit back hard, throwing everything forward in the second half with forward pair Han Duan and Ren Liping posing a consistent threat to the German goal. Their efforts almost paid off on 63 minutes when China were awarded a spot kick for a hand ball against Kerstin Stegemann, but Silke Rottengerb responded quickly to turn Li Jie's weak penalty shot round the post.
"The German players were a cut above us in terms of experience and finishing. They converted the only two shots in the first half but our young players appeared tense in front of goal," Wang Haiming summed up after the match.
Tina Theune-Meyer exchanged compliments with her Chinese counterpart saying: "It was a hard-won win as China made life difficult for us in the second half." She thought this tournament was good for her team's preparation for the European Championship next June after a long winter break. "The players didn't have too many touches on the ball but now they will come back very soon. And it is good to put our four new players in matches where they have gained good international experiences," she told FIFA.com.
Australia team impressive with new boss
Australia, under new boss Tom Sermmani, impressed those in the Quanzhou Stadium in their opening match against Germany with a hard-fought 1-0 victory. Their diminutive forward Lisa De Vanna stood out in the tight match, scoring the only goal in the first half.
The 20-year-old continued her sparkling performances in the following match against the hosts, forcing Zhang Yanru into a couple of stunning saves in the opening minutes. But the hosts soaked up the pressure in the first half and produced three goals within five minutes in the second half, leaving Sermmani's girls trudging off dumbfounded.
But the Australia girls bounced back. The final match with Russia turned out almost like a training session for Australia. Heather Garriock opened the scoring on 20 minutes and only eight minutes later Lisa De Vanna struck her team's second. Kathryn Gill scored a brace early in the second half before captain Cheryl Sailsbury sealed the 5-0 victory with a spot kick.
"It's good we were level on points with both Germany and China, but it was not just the results which made me so optimistic for the team's future", said the experienced Sermmani, who had been Australia wome'sn team coach between 1994-1997 before he moved to WUSA to coach San Jose and then New York Power. "It is the team's potential which they showed in these matches that impressed me most and makes me more confident."
*Final results: *Friday, 28th Jan: Australia 1-0 Germany
China 3-1 Russia
Sunday, 30th, Jan: China 3-0 Australia
Germany 1-0 Russia
Tuesday, 1st, Feb: Russia 0-5 Australia
China 0-2 Germany