- Peng Shimeng put in Player of the Match performance against Spain
- Clean sheet helped Steel Roses reach last 16
- Peng has conceded one goal in four-and-a-half hours of France 2019 so far
By Qian Sun with China PR
When it comes to aspiring goalkeepers, Manuel Neuer is perhaps this generation's No1 role model. He's certainly been an inspiration for China PR's shot stopper supreme Peng Shimeng.
"What I admire the most about him are not only his extraordinary skills, but also his confidence and calm," Peng told FIFA.com after her side's game with Spain. "He has a clear vision of what’s going on on the field, and that’s what I want to become."
In the game against La Roja, Peng surely demonstrated her own extraordinary ability to keep a calm mind in times of high pressure just like her idol. She blocked as many as nine shots of the fierce attack from Jorge Vilda's slick attacking outfit and her clean sheet helped China earn the point that saw them through to the next round. Fans on social media dubbed her "the Great Wall of China."
“It was a lot of pressure, even more so in the second half. And this is my first big tournament.” She added, speaking off the pitch as she had performed on it: calm, tranquil and relaxed.
Her coach Jia Xiuquan, who was clearly emotional after the game - Peng said she'd never seen him cry before - spoke after the game of the high level of tension during the match.
"I used to be a player, so I know how much pressure they were under," he said. "Although they are trying not to show it, I know how it feels."
"Goalkeeper is a very special position, it’s the last line of defence," Peng added. "I can’t make any mistakes, because that might lead to a goal. And I have to be able to handle the stress. I don’t focus on the pressure, don’t carry it with me. The more relaxed, the better."
Being able to cope with these high levels of pressure as a 'keeper is indeed why she can perform so well, even in very crucial matches.
“Sometimes after important games, I would reflect what was good, and what went wrong before I went to bed, but then the next day I will have a fresh mind already," Peng said. "Training is very hard normally, so I try not to focus on certain things when it’s not necessary."
Another factor that makes her calm, assured performances all the more remarkable is that Peng is one of the youngest players in the Chinese squad, and it’s her first FIFA Women's World Cup™. Her mature performances so far belie her 21 years.
"To be a good goalkeeper requires a certain level of leadership, and it doesn't necessarily come naturally to me," she confessed. “I'm also a lot younger than most of the players in the team, especially the defenders. I hesitated to shout at them and give them instructions at the beginning. But they always told me not to think about that, and just do what I have to do. Because, in the end, I'm the goalkeeper. ”
At the side of the pitch after the match, Chinese players ran with joy towards each other. “Great job, silly bean!” many of them said to Peng, a nickname they've given to the young shot stopper, who described her own personality as “shy."
"Player of match at the World Cup is just the start, it will motivate me to do better in the future," she concluded with the award clutched firmly in her hands, radiating confidence on her face.