‘Steel Roses’ steal the show in Guam

China Daily (USA) - - SPORTS - By SHI FUTIAN shi­fu­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.