Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
China
Home / Sports / China

Steel Roses up to thorny challenge

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-06 08:54
Team China players enjoy a light training session in Auxerre, France, this week as they prepare for their Women's World Cup opener against Germany on Saturday. XINHUA

Team China taking dead aim at pulling off some major upsets at Women's World Cup

China's Steel Roses are confident they can meld into a formidable force that could translate into a deep run at the FIFA Women's World Cup, which kicks off on Friday.

With silky skilled Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Wang Shuang the squad's standout performer, some pundits have dismissed Team China as a one-woman team.

But there's no one more determined to dispel that notion than Wang herself, who this week has been busy responding to speculation that she could cut her PSG stint short and resume her career back home.

"This year's World Cup is attracting huge attention, and I can feel that every player, coach and staff member of the national women's team has put in a massive effort to prepare for the competition," the 2018 Asian women's player of the year told CCTV ahead of China's Group B opener against Germany in Rennes.

"It's true that we are under pressure, but I'm trying my best to stop thinking about these problems. Right now, I just want to play my game and to enjoy this World Cup experience.

"More importantly, there are always voices that Wang Shuang alone will lead the team to victory. That's not true. This is a sport that requires teamwork. Victory will depend on the whole team. Everyone must shoulder their own responsibility.

"The team will be united, and we are ready to shine on the world stage."

While Wang is attempting to play down her superstar status, China's opponents are focusing on the 24-year-old midfielder as the main threat.

"We have studied the Chinese team and watched their games. The quality of their game is high, and the players are aggressive," Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg told Xinhua.

"I know that Team China has great players like Wang Shuang. I watched her PSG games on TV, and I always see news about her online. She has great skills, so she can pose us a lot of different problems on the field.

"We know that Wang is the core player of Team China. We will pay special attention to her."

China's squad features a blend of experience and youth, with 14 of the 23 players having previously competed at the World Cup or Olympic Games.

"We are all top players, among which many are veterans, and everyone wants to fight for the glory of the team, so that means a lot of competition for starting places," said top scorer Wang Shanshan.

"This time we have higher expectations. Four years ago, many of us were still rookies. Now, we all have grown so much. So we hope we can have better performance than four years ago."

That's setting the bar pretty high.

In 2015 in Canada, the Steel Roses produced an impressive run to the quarterfinals, where they were beaten 1-0 by eventual winner the United States.

Gao Hong, a star of China's silver medalist sides at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1999 World Cup, reckons expectations should be kept in check.

"Despite having Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan, the Chinese women's team still lacks top international stars. There's still lots of room for the Chinese players to grow.

"Women's soccer is still not a mainstream sport in China. Many people are unaware of how it has developed, so they can't see the bigger picture.

"The positive side is that Chinese women's soccer is growing, with a better youth training system now in place."

Final fantasy

Ranked 16th by FIFA, simply emerging from Group B, which includes Spain, South Africa and two-time champion Germany, is a huge challenge.

But head coach Jia Xiuquan is urging his charges to aim even higher.

"Our goal is to reach the final of the World Cup, and we want to go even further and win the championship," said 56-year-old Jia.

"I have not changed my mind. This is the target I have set for the squad. In the meantime, the team and I are clearly aware of the challenges. We know there's still a gap between us and the world's elite, but we've been working hard to close that gap."

Jia, an esteemed coach with 20 years' experience in the men's game, took the reins last year, steering his squad to a runner-up finish at the Asian Games in Indonesia.

He admits his lofty target for France is perhaps over-reaching, but remains hopeful his players can raise their game and surprise even themselves.

"I know it sounds much more reasonable for us to aim at a quarterfinal finish," he said. "But I want my players to dream bigger and then go all out to achieve the highest goal possible."

What they say

"There are always voices that Wang Shuang alone will lead the team to victory. That's not true. This is a sport that requires teamwork. Victory will depend on the whole team."

Wang Shuang, Team China's PSG superstar

"This time we have higher expectations. Four years ago, many of us were still rookies. Now, we all have grown so much. We hope we can produce a better performance than four years ago."

Wang Shanshan, China's top scorer

"We are at a historic moment when the Steel Roses can bloom again, so we are shouldering great responsibilities."

Jia Xiuquan, Team China's head coach

"Despite having stars like Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan, there's still a lot of room for the Chinese players to grow."

Gao Hong, former Team China goalkeeper, who won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1999 World Cup

"I know that Team China has great players like Wang Shuang. I watched her PSG games on TV, and I always see news about her online. We know that Wang is the core player of Team China. We will pay special attention to her."

Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, Germany head coach

Most Popular

Highlights

What's Hot
Top
BACK TO THE TOP
English
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349
FOLLOW US