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Preview – Group B: China PR v Spain

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Le Havre: Spain’s high-possession approach has won them many admirers, and China PR head coach Jia Xiuquan says his side will need to exhibit their own style if they are to beat the Europeans in Monday’s crucial FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 clash at Stade Océane.

With both sides on three points, and Spain marginally ahead on goal difference, the winners of Monday’s match are certain to progress to the knockout stage, while any other result will leave the Steel Roses’ knockout stage fate at the mercy of other results.

Like many, Jia was impressed by the influence exerted by Spain in their 1-0 loss to world number two Germany – the same result registered by China in their opening match – but the former men’s international insists the onus is on his side to shape their meeting with Jorge Vilda’s side in their own image.

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“The game between Spain and Germany was seen by the whole team, and we’ve seen their other matches previously,” said the experienced boss. “Spain have their own style and I think it’s going to be an exciting game.

“I think Spain has a faster speed than other teams and they have a more defined style of play, and this is what we need to keep in mind. We cannot base our tactics only on their passing and their speed.

“We need to exhibit our own style and show our own speed. We know that Spain are stronger than China in most ways, however we need to win the game with our own style.”

NATIONAL TEAM | A busy Saturday for the squad! China will face Spain on Monday in the last match of Group B. 🇨🇳🇪🇸 #SteelRoses #CHN

— China Women's National Football Team (@ChinaWNFT) June 16, 2019

While Spain – who achieved just under 60 per cent of possession against the Germans – have reason to be pleased with their progress in France, so too do China.

After pushing Germany all the way in their opening match, Jia’s side outplayed South Africa all over the pitch in Paris on Matchday Two, registering a dominant performance which ought to have produced more goals than the solitary successful strike which came from Li Ying.

If they can hit the target more regularly, Jia is keenly aware of his side’s potential, but he believes improving their attacking efficiency is an ongoing process.

“I think we need to be more cynical in front of the goal,” he conceded. “This is a problem faced by players all over the world.”

“There’s a lot of clashes in the box. This has an effect on how we grasp our chances and control the game, and every single moment influences the players’ mindset and decision making.

“This is something we need to train over the training sessions, and we need to keep playing with high level teams in order to develop a stable mentality. This is something we need to work on regularly and in every game.”

While Jia is pragmatic when weighing up his side’s strengths and weaknesses, his Spanish counterpart Vilda has good reason to be full of positivity coming into the clash.

Already Spain’s most statistically successful women’s national team boss, the Madrid-born mentor who played youth football for Barcelona is on the verge of becoming the first coach to take La Roja to the Women’s World Cup knockout stage.

There is still work to do be done on that front, but the 37-year-old believes that, so far, everything is going according to plan for his side.

“Our national team is totally centred and focused on how to win this match against China” he declared. “We want to get into the next stage, and we want to win the match.

“Our team is going from strength to strength. In terms of our game plan, it’s all gone perfectly. We’ve got a great understanding amongst ourselves in our training sessions, and the progression that we’ve seen in the Spanish national team from the match against South Africa to Germany has been great.

“We’ve been able to find our rhythm and prove themselves.”

Spain has become one of the rising powers of the women’s game in recent years, reaching the quarter finals of the past two UEFA European Championships and enjoying unprecedented success at youth level, all using a now-familiar playing style based on passing and movement.

Few would bet against them completing more passes than the Steel Roses on Monday, but, as China PR veteran Zhang Rui is acutely aware, the statistic that will ultimately carry the most importance is goals.

“Spain were better statistically than Germany in their last game, but this is the beauty of football,” said the 30-year-old midfielder, whose superb cross set up Li’s winner against South Africa.

“No matter how many statistics you win, you may not win the game."


China PR v Spain
FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Group B
Stade Océane, Le Havre
Kick-off: 18.00 (local time)

Photos: AFP

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