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Jia: Mental strength made up for China PR's physical challenges

Saturday, February 8, 2020
China-Olympic Qualifiers-FFA

Sydney: China PR head coach Jia Xiuquan paid tribute to his side’s mental toughness, after they closed an exceptionally challenging week with a stunning 6-1 win against Thailand in the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Friday.

Unable to train and confined to their Brisbane hotel for an extended period as a result of health precautions, the Steel Roses showed they have an iron will, producing four first-half goals to claim a commanding victory a little over 24 hours after arriving in Sydney.

With three points emphatically secured, Jia revealed his satisfaction at his team’s ability to overcome their trying circumstances.

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“We faced some difficulties before the match with more than a week without training, but today I believe the team deserved the win,” said the former men’s international.

“Our players showed their eagerness to win. We faced difficulties, but I believe our mentality has made up for our physical problems. We believe, in the following days, we will have better training and preparation.

“I know my team very well, and we are stronger, both as individuals and as a team, than our opponents. We have prepared as much as we can during the past days, and I believe the players were very positive towards this match and deserved the win.”

Qualifiers - Group B: China PR 6-1 Thailand

While Wuhan-based 2018 AFC Women’s Player of the Year Wang Shuang is one of four players to have remained in China, the Steel Roses’ attacking players dominated proceedings at Campbelltown Stadium, with Li Ying and Tang Jiali netting twice each, and Wang Shanshan and Zhang Xin also scoring.

It was a handsome return for a side which scored only one goal in four matches at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and, according to Jia, one which had been earned by his players.

“During the preparation camp we worked a lot on attacking,” he said. “Today the attackers performed their best and played under no pressure.

“Team Thailand is quite strong. In this match we adjusted our squad accordingly and we were able to perform at our best."

While China PR’s win was an important step towards a sixth Olympic women’s football tournament appearance, Thailand’s hopes of a maiden qualification appear dashed after a second successive defeat.

Thai coach Naruephon Kaenson is trying to introduce long-term changes to the way his side play, but he conceded the Chaba Kaew were well beaten on this occasion.

“Today, our opponents were better than us,” said Kaenson. “Tactically, I want to improve this team, not just to try to defend and play on the counter-attack. I wanted to try to build up and play attacking football as the next step towards improving our team.

“Football is changing. The way that football is being played at this moment is changing, so we want to know about our team and where we sit in the Asian positions.

“Today, when we lost the ball during our (attempts to) build-up, our opponents were able to punish us.”

Photos: Football Federation Australia, AFP

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