Diplomacy will be shelved when China, US women meet in World Cup

Updated: 2015-06-26 00:49

By William Hennelly(China Daily USA)

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Diplomacy will be shelved when China, US women meet in World Cup

The Chinese women’s national soccer team celebrates a goal against Cameroon in World Cup. The US is Friday’s opponent. [XINHUA]

Chinese and US officials held strategic talks in Washington this week, and now their respective women's soccer teams will have a people-to-people exchange on Friday in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Women's World Cup.

The game will be played at Landsdowne Stadium in Ottawa, Canada, at 7:30 pm EDT.

China defeated Cameroon, 1-0, on Saturday, its first win in the knockout stage since 1999. The US dispatched Columbia, 2-0, on Monday to set up the match. The winner will face the winner of Friday's Germany-France match, on June 30 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Diplomacy will be shelved when China, US women meet in World Cup

China's goal vs. Cameroon came in the 12th minute off a corner kick, with Li Dongna passing to Wang Shanshan, who sent the ball past the diving Cameroon goalkeeper.

The US and China have met on the grand stage before, in the 1999 final, which the US won on penalty kicks, 5-4, after a scoreless 120 minutes. The game was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, before 90,185, the largest crowd ever to witness a women's sporting event.

The US, the No 2 team in the world in FIFA's current rankings, will be favored over No 16 China.

The physical US team takes an aggressive, ball-hawking approach and looks for 5-foot-11 veteran Abby Wambach, the all-time leading scorer in international soccer with 183 goals, on set pieces.

The "Steel Roses,"as the Chinese team is called, play a smothering defense and look to counterattack with precision passes and ball control.

"They put on a spectacular performance, they were resilient and brave,"China assistant coach Chang Weiwei said. "They were like warriors for 90 minutes.

"All the players worked very hard — defense is teamwork; it is about the work of 11 players, but there is room for improvement in attack,"he said.

"Under coach Hao we have witnessed tremendous progress of the national team; he selected a lot of young, energetic and enterprising young players, becoming more mature and sophisticated players,"Chang said.

"I think they can reach even higher levels.”

China will have coach Hao Wei back on the sidelines. He was suspended for the Cameroon game when he was ejected from the previous game for interfering with a New Zealand player on a throw-in late in the teams' 2-2 draw.

Player of the match Ren Guixin said the players would play with more freedom because they reached the quarterfinals.

"We are in the top eight now; we have a huge burden lifted off our shoulder,"she said. "We believe in ourselves and we will be even more aggressive in our next match.”

"They defend very well, and looking at the way they defend, I think they have chances to beat the United States,"said Cameroon head coach Enow Ngachu.

ESPN commentator Julie Foudy, a former US national team captain, said China has regressed since the 1999 World Cup. "They're trying to rebuild, and they do look better"but for the US, "this is their chance to actually click”, she said.

The Americans will be without veterans Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, both of whom received their second yellow cards of the tournament against Columbia. Players who accumulate two yellow cards during a tournament must sit out the next match.

Yu Hongchen, vice-president of the Chinese Football Association, told the China News Service after the game that "today's result reflects that the entire system behind the women's national team-including youth recruitment, elite training and logistical support-has been improved as the central government's soccer-boosting plan envisioned. It inspires greater participation game at the grassroots level. But we still lag behind the world's elites, and we have a lot of work to do.”

Financial incentives are a part of that. Xinhua reported on Monday that the team will receive the "highest ever"bonus of around 1 million yuan $160,000 for reaching the quarterfinals. The move is designed to increase popularity of the sport among women, where most of the players on the national team earn about 3,000 yuan ($485) a month, Xinhua said.

Adding to the pot was Chinese entrepreneur Zong Qinghou, one of the country's richest persons. "I've learned from the news that the average monthly income of most girls on the team is only 3,000 yuan,"Zong posted on Weibo.

"I was surprised. … I decided to donate 1 million yuan to the girls,"Zong said.

Hong Xiao in New York contributed to this column. Contact the writer at williamhennelly@chinadailyusa.com