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Focus on China PR

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Kuala Lumpur: The most successful team in AFC Women’s Asian Cup history, China PR dominated the tournament from their first appearance in 1986, winning an unprecedented seven consecutive titles.

Head coach: Sigurdur Eyjólfsson (JPN)

Current FIFA ranking: 13

AFC Women’s Asian Cup appearances: 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014

Best finish: Champions (1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2006)

Inspired by the brilliant Ma Xiaoxu, they added an eighth in 2006, but generational improvements by the likes of Japan, Australia and DPR Korea have ended the world’s most populous nation's dominance of Asian women’s football.

Despite going 11 years without a senior continental title, a drought by Chinese standards, the Steel Roses remain one of Asia’s most formidable sides, reching the quarter-finals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

They also retain the enviable record of having never finished outside the top four in any AFC Women’s Asian Cup they have competed in.

While China didn’t need to qualify for next April’s finals by virtue of their third place finish in Vietnam four years ago, they have prepared extensively, with their 19 matches in 2017 the most of any team in the draw, although results have been mixed.

Successes against 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup sides Mexico and Thailand, and a 2-2 draw with World No. 9 Brazil show China’s potential, but a winless Algarve Cup campaign and dual home losses to DPR Korea, who failed to qualify for Jordan 2018, indicate there is room for improvement.

After two years under Frenchman Bruno Bini, China appointed Iceland’s Siggi Eyjólfsson as their new head coach in November, with legendary former player Sun Wen taking a role as assistant coach.

Key player: Wang Shanshan

Once known as a defender, Wang Shanshan has evolved into a lethal striker, and enjoyed a productive 2017 in front of goal for the national team.

After finding the net against Australia at the Algarve Cup in March, she went on a superb scoring run which included seven goals in the next nine Steel Roses matches, culminating with a five-minute brace in the 2-2 draw against Brazil in October.

The 27-year-old has benefited from a fruitful goal-scoring partnership with gifted attacking midfielder Wang Shuang, who has scored five goals of her own in 2017, in addition to winning the Chinese Women’s Super League title with Dalian Quanjian.

Qualifying stage

China PR qualified automatically by finishing third at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Vietnam 2014.

China PR - A’ internationals in 2017

Thailand2-0Four Nations TournamentFoshan, China19/01/2017
Myanmar2-0Four Nations TournamentFoshan, China21/01/2017
Ukraine5-0Four Nations TournamentFoshan, China24/01/2017
Netherlands0-1Algarve CupLagos, Portugal02/03/2017
Sweden0-0Algarve CupVRSA, Portugal04/03/2017
Australia1-2Algarve CupAlbufeira, Portugal07/03/2017
Iceland1-2Algarve CupParchal, Portugal09/03/2017
Croatia2-0FriendlyKunshan, China06/04/2017
Croatia2-1FriendlyJiaxing, China09/04/2017
DPR Korea0-1FriendlyDuyun, China08/06/2017
Finland4-2FriendlyChangzhou, China11/06/2017
DPR Korea1-2Yongchuan TournamentChongqing, China19/10/2017
Mexico3-2Yongchuan TournamentChongqing, China21/10/2017
Brazil2-2Yongchuan TournamentChongqing, China24/10/2017
Australia0-3FriendlyMelbourne, Australia22/11/2017
Australia1-5FriendlyGeelong, Australia26/11/2017