The Chinese women soccer players fell to nemesis United States in the World Cup quarterfinals but hope for them to return to glory remains high.
In Friday’s quarterfinals, China was edged 1-0 by the US in their first World Cup meeting since 1999 after American captain Carli Lloyd scored the winner in the 51st minute and set her team for a semifinal clash against top ranked Germany who overcame France 5-4 in penalty shootout, Xinhua reports.
“I think they did great, trying hard to the very last second,” said China coach Hao Wei after China’s first appearance in the knock-out stage in eight years at the World Cup.
Unlike their opponents U.S., 1991 and 1999 world champion and four-time Olympic winner, who stays among the top teams all along, China has to work hard for the comeback from a downturn starting since their 1999 World Cup runners-up finish.
In the past years, the Steel Roses have suffered from dwindling number of players and little attention from the public except when they failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympic Games.
However, their performance at Canada World Cup, moving past group stage and beating Cameroon in the last 16, rekindled hopes for the youngest team at this World Cup with an average age of 23.5.
“We gave our 200% today. It is a pity we did not win but it is still a great World Cup. I believe we will be stronger,” said attacking midfielder Pang Fengyue.
Back in China, fans thronged to express their encouragement and admiration.
“Hats off to the Chinese girls. Facing a much stronger team, they were highly spirited and spared no efforts. I see a bright future in them,” said physical education teacher Wang Qi.
As praises are piling up, many call for better support for women’s soccer in China.
“The professional league will offer a solid foundation for the national team. Hopefully attention for the women’s team will not disappear when the World Cup finishes. I also hope the Chinese Football Association and the public can give them more support,” famous sports commentator Zhan Jun said.
Women’s soccer has been struggling for survival as it receives little attention and is just poorly professionalized in China.
Most of the internationals earn just around 3000 yuan (about 483 dollars) a month in salaries while the National Bureau of Statistics survey showed the average salary nationwide stood at 4100 per month.
The good news for them now is that the players can receive the “highest ever” bonus — One million yuan (160,000 US dollars) — after they qualified for the last eight.
Sponsorship also came in various forms, including sunscreen products and a car, awarded to Ren Guixin by her club Changchun.