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