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2019 World Cup Preview: China

This seems like an uphill climb

China Women’s National Football Team Battles Before World Cup Photo by Wang He/Getty Images

Twenty years ago, China were a Kristine Lilly goal line intervention away from claiming their first World Cup. They’d finished fourth at the 1995 World Cup, and things were looking up after a loss in the 1999 final. But in recent times, things have not been rosy for the Steel Roses. They went out of both the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinal stage, and they haven’t finished better than third at the AFC Asian Cup since 2008.

The Team

With the deadline for finalizing all rosters approaching, China will soon cut their roster from 26 to 23.

How They’ve Fared

This is China’s seventh World Cup. Their best finish is runner-up to the United States in 1999.

How They Qualified

China won Group A at the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, thus qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.

Group

B, with Germany, Spain, and South Africa

Player You Know

In August of 2018, Wang Shuang joined Paris Saint-Germain, one of the premier teams in the world, even if typically second in France. She was named Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year for 2018, adding that to her consecutive Chinese Women’s Footballer of the Year awards in 2017 and 2018. The 24-year-old midfielder is credited with seven goals in 18 PSG appearances this season.

Player You’ll Know Soon

Li Ying does not have much experience in big tournaments. The 26-year-old forward has three U-20 World Cup appearances on her resume, along with one Olympic appearance, and two World Cup appearances, but there’s potential for her to break out at this World Cup. Li scored seven goals at the 2018 Asian Cup, winning the Golden Boot by a margin of three goals, scoring more than her countrywoman, Wang Shuang (4), and Australian star Sam Kerr (3). If China goes anywhere this tournament, it’s likely that Li and Wang take them there.

World Cup Outlook

China is likely the third best team in their group, behind Germany and Spain. They followed up their last place finish at the 2019 Algarve Cup by beating Russia by a score of 4-1 at the Wuhan International Tournament (think She Believes, but if the USA invited teams significantly worse than them), and then sneaking by Cameroon by a score of 1-0 in the final. I’m not at all optimistic that China can make it to the knockout stage.