AFC Women's Asian Cup 2014

Why Miyama? Why Iwashimizu? China was so close to getting that win! Right, bad rhetorical questions aside, this has been an impressive performance by the very much young Chinese team so far- one of the oldest members, returned legend Ma Xiaoxu is only 26.

Defensively China managed to hold out Japan for a good while whilst their offense struggled to deliver goals (the only goal came from a penalty). Most of the time the Chinese players were marking the Japanese forwards and Midfield with great success (and Zhang Yue, the goalie, did a solid job, as did Fukumoto) but ultimately China’s attacking play weren’t so fluid.

In the end Japan’s usual resilience and set-piece wonder (it has been a while since we’ve seen a Miya-Sawa goal so that was a cracker) led them to a win after a long struggle against the Chinese defence. Regardless I found the latter’s performance a step up from before.

Over the years the Chinese women’s national team has declined- there’s even a sentimental short documentary about it’s downfall; it’s in Chinese but I have a summary here. This has brought even more cynical comments from critics on the current squad then they deserve (unfortunately some can’t understand that not supporting your team through their low, will not increase their chances of improving).

Nonetheless, now that China’s in the world cup again, media suddenly came poking their heads in for this year’s Asian cup. I hope they were watching today’s match with Japan closely because the effort the girls put up against a formidable Japanese team- the squad may not be your usual eleven but almost every Japanese player has prove themselves at club level- is applaudable.

Today’s loss isn’t going to silence the pundits but it demonstrates that progress is happening. With a bit of time left before the world, who knows if China’s going to be a competitive nation again? It should not be about comparing the current squad with the acclaimed 99’s squad, but cheering for the continued improvements of these young footballers. They’re moving along despite the lack of support from critics and the lack of funding from pretty much anything (no exaggeration there, the documentary mentioned how the girls could get higher wages doing part-time jobs than playing football).

Phew wells that’s my rant over, I’ll just have to wait and see if China WNT team will become a dark horse in 2015. If Ma Xiaoxu managed to get on the national squad again after dealing with injuries for almost 5 years, then the same fighting spirit will hopefully propel the steel roses to blossom in the world cup.

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