‘Steel Roses’ steal the show in Guam
China’s women’s national team continues to show the men how it’s done, with the ‘Steel Roses’ in lethal form at a tournament in Guam this week.
Spearheaded by striker Wang Shanshan, coach Jia Xiuquan’s squad romped to victories over Mongolia (10-0), Hong Kong (6-0) and Chinese Taipei (2-0) to qualify for the finals of East Asian Football Federation’s E-1 Championship.
The finals are due to take place in South Korea next year.
“Our ultimate goal is to win the championship,” said Jia, who will next take his squad for a monthlong winter training stint in Australia.
“I hope the girls will have great results next year and also enjoy the experience.”
Playing on plastic pitches in Guam made Team China’s task a bit more difficult.
“The artificial grass was a major problem for us, given that we mainly train on natural pitches,” Jia said.
“The artificial surface meant we had to adjust our play but we still achieved our goal of qualifying for the championship.
“I’m proud of our girls. After playing so well, we can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery in Guam.”
The 28-year-old Wang, who shot to prominence at this summer’s Asian Games with a nine-goal haul in one match, was again the star of the show for China, this time netting six goals in total.
Dalian Quanjian forward Wang, though, has her eyes on bigger prizes.
“We achieved our goal of reaching the finals, but more challenges await us, including the World Cup and the qualification games for the 2020 Olympics,” she said.
China’s performances were all the more impressive considering recently crowned Asian women’s player of the year Wang Shuang was absent.
The 23-year-old signed a twoyear deal with Paris Saint-Germain in August, a move that has greatly boosted her global profile and accelerated her maturation on the pitch.
“All the world’s best players are in the major leagues in Europe,” said the Wuhan native, who is desperate to do her country proud at next year’s World Cup finals in France. “I can get used to Paris one year ahead of the World Cup. It will be a big help for the campaign.”
Chinese women’s soccer boasts a glorious past, with the nation netting three straight Asian Games titles between 1990 and 1998 and runner-up spots at the 1999 World Cup in the US and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Although the silverware has dried up in recent years, hopes are high the emergence of Wang Shuang, coupled with Jia’s no-nonsense leadership, heralds a new dawn.
Jia replaced Icelander Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson as coach in May. Despite having no previous experience in the women’s game, Jia, a former men’s international player and coach in the Chinese Super League, hit the ground running.
His tenure got off to an encouraging start when he led his team to a silver medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia this summer.
The squad’s success has been built on a regimen of good old-fashioned hard work, with Jia known for conducting arduous training sessions.
Speaking before this summer’s Asiad, Wang Shuang described those workouts as the toughest the team has ever had.
Because the domestic season has just ended, Jia eased his team’s workload at their base in Shanghai ahead of the Guam trip.
Even so, players were still racking up 10 kilometers of running during each session.
“It’s important that the young players gel with the older players,” said Jia. “I hope the youngsters develop quickly to perform well at the World Cup and the Olympics.”