Sydney: A fully fit China PR will be confident of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by overcoming Korea Republic in a two-legged play-off next month, according to captain Wu Haiyan.
Having overcome all manner of obstacles to advance from Group B of the Final Round of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers in Sydney over the past week, the Steel Roses came within two minutes of securing top spot with a shock win over Australia.
A spirited, disciplined performance looked to have paid dividends when Tang Jiali put China ahead in the 86th minute, only for Emily van Egmond’s rocket in the third minute of added time saving the day for the hosts, whose draw was enough for them to top the group on goal difference.
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Van Egmond’s showstopper means Jia Xiuquan’s side are now set for what promises to be a hard-fought tie against Korea Republic, instead of meeting a Vietnam side which has lost all 13 of the previous meetings between the two nations.
But while the already difficult road to Tokyo may have a few more twists and turns, Wu believes a Chinese side with the benefit of an uninterrupted preparation is more than capable of beating Colin Bell’s Korea Republic.
“After the match today, we will train for a few days in Australia and then analyse the next opponent,” said Wu, who turned in a terrific performance alongside Lin Yuping in the heart of the Chinese defence against Australia.
“We will prepare for the coming, crucial matches, believing that we can beat them if we are in our best condition next month."
“Through these three games, I believe that everyone can see that we are constantly improving. Although we have encountered many difficulties recently, everyone, including the coaching team, the CFA, and all the players are very confident in themselves.
“I am sure we will play even better in the future games.”
China’s performance against the Australians was a study in tactical and physical discipline, as the Steel Roses maintained positional organisation while still pressing their opponents all over the pitch, and maintaining a high-level of intensity for the entire match.
The Steel Roses had just 30 per cent of the possession, but conjured 19 shots at goal, including 13 after half-time, and Wu believes the side is benefitting from the influence of head coach Jia.
“As we approached each match (in the tournament), we attached great importance to team tactics, and we hope to reflect the team’s tactical quality with the teamwork among the strikers, the midfielders and the defenders,” Wu said.
“I believe that under the guidance of our head coach, we will do better, step by step. After the World Cup, the Olympics is a stage where we hope to show ourselves, so I believe we will continue to get better and better.”
Photos: Football Federation Australia, AFP
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