2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview: China

Mana Iwabuchi of Japan and Wu Haiyan of China battle for the ball during the AFC Women's Asian Cup semi final match between China and Japan at the King Abdullah II Stadium on April 17, 2018 in Amman, Jordan.
Francois Nel / Getty Images

The Chinese Women’s National Team enters the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France hoping to make their return to the top of world football official after more than a decade as an also run when it came to tournaments. The Jakarta Asian Games in 2018 showed a young team that had no connection to the disappointment of the past and came only a late goal by Japan short of claiming the trophy, as previously reported by The Guardian.

The Chinese team is known for their disciplined structure, led by captain Wu Haiyan in the defense, with forward Wang Shuang the focal point of the attack. The PSG player dictates play from a free role in the same way as her male comparison Lionel Messi, with Chinese as well as Parisian supporters singing her praises after she picked up seven goals and eight assists in 18 appearances in Ligue 1, along with one goal and one assist in the Champions League final. The 2018 AFC Women’s Player of the Year has already become the face of this generation of Chinese women’s soccer and will be depended upon if the national team expects to make it through the knockout stages.

She will be joined up front by Wang Shanshan, who herself is no slouch when it comes to scoring goals. After leading the 2018 Asian Games with 12 goals, albeit with nine coming in a single match against Tajikistan, Wang continued her red hot form, having already scored four goals in the five matches she has played for China this year.

Wang Shuang of ChinaPR challenges Emily van Egmond of the Matildas during the Women's International match between the Australian Matildas and China PR at AAMI Park on November 22, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.
  Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

One surprising missing player from the Chinese squad in the World Cup will be Zhang Rui, the former vice-captain who has picked up more than 140 caps over the course of her international career. Her snub not only denied the team valuable experience, but leaves massive shoes to fill in the midfield. Her expected replacements Yang Lina and Tan Ruyin both have different issues, with Yang lacking experience on the international level and Tan having only just returned to the team after recovering from a serious injury.

After going on a surprising run to the quarter-finals of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, most supporters will be hoping that they can make it to at least the next round in 2019. While this is one of the most talented Chinese teams in years, being forced to make it out of a group that contains Germany and Spain and the likelihood of having to face off against a group winner if they make it to the Round of 16 may dampen those hopes.

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