China need to overcome pressure to progress in Women's World Cup, says coach

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-20 10:15:45|Editor: Li Xia
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LE HAVRE, France, June 19 (Xinhua) -- China can go far in the FIFA Women's World Cup if they can shake off the pressure which led to their under-performance in the group stage, head coach Jia Xiuquan told Xinhua on Wednesday.

China, with one win, one draw and one loss, narrowly qualified for the last 16, where they will face Italy or England.

When China held Spain to a 0-0 draw in their last group match to secure a spot in the knockout stage on Monday, Jia, 56, was moved to tears.

"My team was under attack throughout the match, but the girls withstood it," he said.

"I was moved by my players' fighting spirit. They wanted to show the world that they did not want to go home early. They wanted to grind out the result they desired," he said.

According to Jia, his team, which scored only one goal across three group games, would have performed better if they had not been so nervous.

"During these three games, we always had two or three players who under-performed. They were too nervous," he said.

He rued missed scoring opportunities in China's 1-0 loss to Germany in their first group game, in which China wasted three good chances in the first half before conceding one goal after the break.

"We came close to scoring, we came close to success, but we have to admit we were not good enough," he acknowledged.

"When you face a strong team, you cannot afford to waste chances, and you cannot afford to expose yourself. You could get punished for a minor mistake," he said.

Jia hinted that Wang Shuang, who plays at PSG, needs to improve her form.

"Wang Shuang is a quality player, and the fans pinned high hopes on her," he said.

"I gave her complete freedom to roam on the field, and she could go anywhere to take the ball," he said. "I wanted her to organize a decent attack upfield."

"But she carried huge psychological pressure onto the World Cup stage. I wished she could have performed better," Jia said.

Wang, 24, had managed no shots on goal or assists during China's three group games.

Jia, who considers himself a disciplinarian, said he could be harsh when his players made mistakes in training.

"I was very strict with my players during training," he said.

"But when the World Cup was approaching, our coaching staff tried to encourage the players, and tried to create a relaxing environment for them. It worked," he said.

But the Chinese players need to relax further in order to perform well in the knockout stage, according to Jia.

"If they can bring out 60 or 70 percent of their ability in the next game, they can bring us a surprise," Jia said.

The coach added that China's scouts had been closely following England and Italy, one of whom will face China in the final 16.

"We have sent scouts to follow them. They are teams of different styles. We must be well-prepared whomever we will play," he said.

China striker Wang Shanshan, who was substituted in the 0-0 draw with Spain with an injury, could be a doubt for next game.

"She twisted her right ankle, and needed a stitch in a cut on her right foot. We hope she can recover in time," Jia said.