Preview – Group B: South Africa v China PR
Paris: A tranquil China PR boss Jia Xiuquan has revealed his belief in his players’ ability to claim a crucial FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 win against South Africa on Thursday.
The Steel Roses pushed two-time winners Germany all the way in their first fixture, but their 1-0 opening defeat means their second outing is one they cannot afford to lose if they are to continue their record of never suffering group stage elimination in a World Cup.
Speaking ahead of the fixture at Parc des Princes, Jia backed his side to perform to their capabilities in the crucial clash.
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“I believe that to attend a World Cup is not only a manifestation of our skills but also our mentality,” said the 1984 AFC Asian Cup’s Most Valuable Player.
“The players’ skills are good enough to be in the World Cup. We need to be able to exhibit all these characteristics to earn a victory.
“If (the players) can be themselves and show their confidence to execute our tactics, I don’t think we will do a bad job. I believe in our players.”
Having created a number of excellent scoring opportunities against Germany – and with only the width of the goalpost denying Yang Li from scoring the opening goal - many observers considered the Steel Roses unfortunate to emerge from that match without a point.
But Jia is not one who looks to rely on lady luck, calling on his players to improve in front of goal against South Africa, who are also in need of points after falling 3-1 to Spain.
“I think luck comes with strength,” he declared. “If you are not strong, you won’t be lucky.
“We are not as strong as Germany. We created some chances – more than we did in our training sessions - however, how to convert these opportunities into goals is a difficult problem.
“We need a lot of training and more experience and I think everything will happen naturally, and when the time comes, our players will create very good results.”
Many eyes will be searching for Wang Shuang’s name when the starting line-ups emerge an hour or so before kick-off on Thursday, after the 2017 AFC Player of the Year played only the second 45 minutes of the match against the Germans.
Wang is reportedly struggling with fitness issues, but China PR’s creative force is considered vital to the team's hopes of success in France.
“I believe that Wang Shuang is getting better and better,” said Jia. “In terms of tomorrow, and whether she will start, I will have to evaluate the training session of this afternoon and then we will make an assessment.
“I believe that Wang Shuang is a very special player and she needs to exhibit her characteristics.”
In stark contrast to China, who are appearing in their seventh FIFA Women’s World Cup, South Africa made their all-time tournament debut in Saturday’s defeat to Spain.
While Banyana Banyana are new to this stage of the competition, they did qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, where they suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Steel Roses en route to a group stage exit.
Gu Yasha – who scored in that match and plays alongside South African duo Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo for club side Beijing Phoenix – emphasised the importance of taking a positive mindset into what looms as a very important 90 minutes for both nations.
“I scored (against them) in 2016, it's been more than two years. Now we are in the same group with South Africa again,” she said.
“For players, the most important thing is to enjoy the game. To enjoy the performance on the pitch.
“From the first game, I believe that everybody is expecting a better performance from us and I hope we can do that.”
South Africa v China PR FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Group B Parc des Princes, Paris Kick-off: 21.00 (local time)
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images, AFP
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