Preview – Group B: Germany v China PR
Rennes: Jia Xiuquan believes his China PR players are rapidly improving, but stopped short of predicting an upset win over European powerhouse Germany in Saturday’s opening FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Group B clash.
Ranked second in the world, the Germans haven’t tasted defeat against China PR since 2006, marking the eight-time European champions as strong favourites for the match at Roazhon Park.
But the Steel Roses are eight-time continental champions themselves, and despite a relative scarcity of recent success, Jia – who became head coach last May – says his team are moving in the right direction.
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"Since I became the head coach last year, through the training camps, the Asian Games and other international friendly games, our players are improving, both tactically and strategically,” said the former men’s international.
“In the previous winter camps, we held similar preparations for the World Cup, and the players have improved a lot.
“In competitive sport, there is no such thing as perfection, so all we want is to try our best. We know the China team has a gap with the top teams, but in every match, we want to narrow the gap.
“We don’t have a favourable record historically against Germany, but every time we play a strong opponent it’s a learning process for the whole team to prepare us to be stronger. Tomorrow is the same and we will learn from the match,” he concluded.
China PR were a global women’s football powerhouse in the 1990s, proving almost unbeatable in Asia and reaching the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in 1999, but they have experienced leaner times in recent years and are no longer considered one of the leading international sides.
A strong showing in last week’s 2-1 friendly defeat to tournament hosts France has raised hopes of a Chinese revival in this World Cup, but Jia warned a return to the halcyon days of Sun Wen and company will not come overnight.
“In the past we had glories in women’s football, and we want to revive the greatness of women’s football in China,” he declared. “But it also takes years for the players, the coaches and every aspect of football development to improve (and reach those heights).”
“Our country, and also our public and the (football) federation have given a lot of attention and support to the development of Chinese football, and especially women’s football, and we will try our best.”
Their first hurdle in France is a challenging one. A revitalised German side haven’t lost a match since March 2018 and remain undefeated under current head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg; a Women’s World Cup runner-up in 1995.
China were eliminated by Germany at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but despite the obvious quality of Saturday’s opponents, Steel Roses skipper Wu Haiyan can’t wait to get started in Rennes.
“The whole team are really looking forward to the match, especially as it is the first match,” she said. “No matter how strong the opponent is, we are prepared, and we will try our best.”
“As the first opponent of our team, of course, we paid a lot of attention to the situation of the current German team. We believe every team in the World Cup is improving, and we are really looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”
Despite playing only 45 minutes against France last Friday, 2018 AFC Women’s Player of the Year Wang Shuang is expected to play a key role in China’s campaign.
The creative 24-year-old comes to the global Finals fresh from scoring seven goals in her maiden season with French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, and Jia hopes she is the first of many Chinese players to leave their mark in the European game.
“As a player, I also had overseas experience, so we hope to have more players play for European or other countries’ clubs,” said the 55-year-old, who had stints in the former Yugoslavia and throughout Asia.
“Wang Shuang is the first, but we hope to have more players in overseas, highly-competitive clubs. We believe that will benefit women’s football development in China.”
France v Korea Republic
FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Group B
Roazhon Park, Rennes
Kick-off: 15.00 (local time)
Photo: Chinese Football Association
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