China’s ‘Steel Roses’ back among elite at World Cup

The China Post - - SPORTS -

China’s ‘Steel Roses’ marked their re­turn to the elite of world soc­cer on Satur­day with a 1-0 win over Cameroon which booked them a ticket to the quar­ter­fi­nals of the Women’s World Cup.

A first-half goal from de­fender turned for­ward Wang Shan­shan set up a meet­ing with ei­ther the United States or Colom­bia in the fi­nal eight next Fri­day.

It also sent Africa’s last re­main­ing team crash­ing out of the tour­na­ment.

Coach Hao Wei had a touch­line ban and watched from the stands as his team bravely fought in cold and wet con­di­tions at Ed­mon­ton’s Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium.

But his side closed down the game early when Wang Shan­shan got the opener af­ter 12 min­utes when she picked up a pass from Li Dongna who did well to con­trol a Wang Lisi cor­ner.

“To­day all the play­ers were won­der­ful, they put on a spec­tac­u­lar per­for­mance, de­mon­strat­ing amaz­ing re­silience and brav­ery,” said as­sis­tant coach Chang Wei-Wei.

“They fought like war­riors for over 90 min­utes. I want to thank them for their hard work.”

China, run­ners up in 1999, failed to qual­ify for Ger­many 2011 or the Lon­don Olympics the fol­low­ing year.

But the team have been re­vi­tal­ized since Hao was ap­pointed coach soon af­ter.

“Un­der the lead­er­ship of coach Hao over two or three years we have wit­nessed tremen­dous im­prove­ment in the Chi­nese team,” said Chang.

“He has se­lected many young play­ers who are so en­er­getic and en­ter­pris­ing. I think they can reach even higher goals in the fu­ture.”

Rock Solid De­fense

The de­fense of the 16th-ranked Chi­nese was rock solid al­low­ing few chances for 53rd-ranked Cameroon’s en­er­getic for­wards.

Cameroon’s best chance of the first half was a free-kick from Gaelle En­ganamouit which de­flected from the wall into the path of Gabrielle Onguene who fired into the side-net­ting.

But once 25- year- old Wang scored her sec­ond goal of the tour­na­ment it was im­pos­si­ble for Cameroon to get through.

“The Chi­nese de­served their vic­tory we can just say bravo. Their team is very com­plete,” said Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu, whose side were just the sec­ond from Africa to reach the knock­out rounds af­ter Nige­ria in 1999.

“They don’t score many goals but they de­fend very well. We knew that if we con­ceded a goal it would be very dif­fi­cult for us.

“It’s im­pres­sive the way they re­grouped them­selves. We didn’t have space be­cause the Chi­nese were al­ways de­fend­ing.

“If they can keep on like that they can cre­ate sur­prises.”

Cameroon played cham­pi­ons Ja­pan in the group stage and took a goal in a 2-1 loss to the Asian giants.

But Ngachu ad­mit­ted the Chi­nese were even tougher.

“In the game against Ja­pan we had many scor­ing chances, we didn’t to­day,” he said.

“The Ja­panese play­ers are more tech­ni­cal, more in­tel­li­gent, but the team that is cre­at­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in this tour­na­ment is China.”

The African new­com­ers were also strug­gling in the weather con­di­tions.

“We didn’t ex­pect cold weather and rain, it was a hand­i­cap for our team. It’s un­for­tu­nate we haven’t been train­ing on sur­faces that are very slip­pery,” said Ngachu.

Goalscorer Wang missed a golden chance for a sec­ond as she went wide on 60 min­utes when alone on front of goal. Cameroon sub­sti­tute Ajara Ni­chout missed a chance to level but volleyed into the arms of goal­keeper Wang Fei.

China’s Han Peng fin­ished the game with her head heav­ily ban­daged af­ter a clash with Cameroon’s Clau­dine Mef­fome­tou deep into in­jury time.

De­spite ap­pear­ing to have suf­fered the ef­fects of con­cus­sion, Han re­turned to the pitch to play the fi­nal min­utes of the game.

“We will do tests to see what dam­age has been done, but the spirit is com­mend­able,” said Chang.

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