In a highly anticipated showdown on Tuesday, the Chinese women’s soccer team faced off against a youthful Japanese squad in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. The outcome was not what the fans had hoped for, as the Chinese team narrowly missed out on a spot in the final. Despite coming close to equalizing at times, Head Coach Shui Qingxia acknowledged that the game had revealed deeper issues than the final score indicated.
From the very onset of the match, China showcased their dominance, controlling possession and launching relentless attacks within Japan’s half. However, their efforts failed to yield the desired results, and the tide shifted when Japan seized an early lead with a lightning-fast counterattack in the 12th minute. Remarkably, just eight minutes later, China managed to level the score through a brilliantly executed corner kick, courtesy of Wang Linlin.
Inside the stadium, the home crowd’s unwavering support for the Chinese women’s soccer team was nothing short of extraordinary. However, to the astonishment of many, Japan orchestrated the next three goals within a mere 12 minutes, capitalizing on similar counterattacks and converting all four of their attempts into goals. By halftime, China found themselves grappling with a daunting three-goal deficit.
Following a respite during halftime, China regrouped and unleashed a barrage of renewed attacks, earning consecutive corners. Their corner kick prowess proved instrumental, with Zhang Linyan and Yang Lina expertly heading the ball into the net in the 55th and 60th minutes, respectively, reigniting the fervor of the crowd as the score reached 4-3.
In the closing moments of the match, the Chinese team had several opportunities to equalize, but they ultimately had to accept defeat, allowing the Japanese team to advance to the gold medal contest.
The Chinese women’s soccer team had carried high hopes since their triumph in the Asian Cup in February 2022. Their remarkable comeback from a 0-2 deficit to secure a 3-2 victory in the final had served as a profound source of inspiration for the Chinese people. However, their performance in the 2023 Women’s World Cup left much to be desired, as they failed to progress beyond the group stage. Nevertheless, the public continued to harbor aspirations of a potential gold medal run at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
The team was undoubtedly regarded as one of the tournament favorites, particularly with the absence of the Australian team from the Asian Games and Japan’s decision to field a relatively young squad, while China retained most of its World Cup lineup.
In the aftermath of the narrow defeat, Chinese Head Coach Shui Qingxia shouldered the responsibility for the outcome. Speaking at the post-match news conference, Shui, a seven-time Asian champion during her illustrious playing career, candidly admitted, “We were nervous and played tight in the first half. I didn’t expect us to concede four goals in the first half.” She went on to commend her players for their resolute spirit in the second half, emphasizing that improved attention to detail could have altered the outcome. “The Japanese team performed admirably. There is much we can learn from this failure,” she remarked, underscoring that even a one-goal difference in the final score could signify significant shortcomings.
Japan’s roster featured a remarkable 14 young players born after the year 2000. Head Coach Kano Michihisa spoke highly of his team, acknowledging that for many of them, it was their inaugural experience on the international stage. “We hope they can gain invaluable experience to contribute more to the national team in the future.”
Looking ahead, the Chinese women’s soccer team is set to face Uzbekistan in the battle for the bronze medal on Friday, a team they had previously dominated with a resounding 6-0 victory during the group stage on September 28. This upcoming match offers a chance for redemption and a glimmer of consolation for a team that had set their sights on gold but fell short in a closely contested semifinal clash against Japan.