China PR still not at their peak, says Jia
Sydney: Jia Xiuquan praised his side after they booked their place in next month’s AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament play-off round, but the China PR boss said his side still need time to recover their physical condition.
The Steel Roses once again brushed off an interrupted preparation to achieve a handsome victory, this time scoring an excellent 5-0 win over Chinese Taipei despite being restricted to indoor training due to Sydney’s wild weekend weather.
Sunday’s downpour was particularly poorly timed given China’s inability to properly train in the week prior to the tournament, but their on-field performances have seemingly been unaffected, with Monday’s result following an earlier 6-1 win over Thailand.
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With group hosts Australia up next in Thursday’s Group B decider, Jia is pleased with his side’s showing in Sydney so far, but believes they are still some way off their top physical level.
“I think the players have executed very well in both attack and defence,” said Jia.
“Since we arrived in Sydney the weather has not been very good. It keeps raining. Only today we have had quite good weather. The players are not in their best shape, and our opponents have been playing more proactively in the second half, which has given us some difficulties.
“Although the team are not in the best shape, we are strong in mentality and we are strong in teamwork. We’ve improved, match by match, but there is still a lot to prepare for the next match.”
One player to have seized the opportunity despite the trying pre-tournament conditions is Wang Shanshan, who has provided three goals and two assists after being a notable absentee when China PR laboured to a 1-0 win over Chinese Taipei at the EAFF E-1 Championship in December.
With a possible Olympic campaign looming, Jia provided a simple message to anyone currently outside the squad aiming for a Tokyo 2020 berth.
“Our team is always open to good players, and senior players,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese Taipei’s Olympic qualification bid came to an end, with those two successive heavy defeats ultimately outweighing the eight consecutive wins which brought Kazuo Echigo’s side to this stage.
The Japanese boss, while disappointed with his side’s performance in a first half which produced all five goals, said this week’s experience could eventually be seen as a win in the future, so long as lessons are learned.
“I believe it’s something (Jose) Mourinho said before,” Echigo said.
“If we don’t learn anything from these two games, and it doesn’t change anything – mentally and physically – then that’s a defeat.
“But if we can change something, and we can learn something from these two games, then I don’t consider it a loss.”
Photos: Football Federation Australia
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