Join us on this journey as we dish out the inside scoop on each squad's strengths, weaknesses, players to keep an eye on and what a pass mark might be for each nation.
Next up, we look at the reigning Asian Champions, China.
FIFA Women's World Cup Appearances: 7 (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015, 2019)
Best performance at a FIFA Women's World Cup: Runners-Up (1999)
Players to watch
Wang Shuang(王霜) is a seasoned winger boasting over 130 caps for her nation. She has been delivering solid performances for her NWSL club Racing Louisville, successfully keeping Matildas teammate Alex Chidiac at bay. Should she bring her top-notch game to Australia and New Zealand for the tournament, Shuang could potentially turn the tides in favour of her team.
Midfielder Tang Jiali (唐佳丽) is another highly seasoned Steel Rose, with a background of playing in both the WSL in England and Liga F in Spain, representing Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid respectively. While her home club in the CWSL remains Shanghai Shenli, the 28-year-old is currently playing top-tier football and could potentially play a key role in the critical group stage match against Denmark.
Li Mengwen (李梦雯), another Chinese export, is currently making her mark in Europe for Paris St Germain. The pacey right back, with 17 national appearances under her belt, will be a key player both in defence and attack for China at this year's competition.
The current Women’s Asian Cup champions have been poor in 2023. Their schedule has included four international matches, along with two unofficial friendlies against club teams. As expected of a national team, China's results against club teams have been favourable. However, the team's performance against international counterparts has been less impressive.
China managed to score a single goal against Sweden in a 4-1 defeat in February, followed by a dreary 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland. China's April friendlies didn’t offer much improvement with another lacklustre 0-0 draw with Switzerland, and a 3-0 defeat by the highly anticipated Spain.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Despite a string of underwhelming results, China PR has a reputation for being a tough squad to crack. A prime example was when the team were quarantined in Australia during the Covid pandemic while on Olympic qualifying duty, forcing them to train in a hotel corridor. This would have been a devastating setback for any other team, but China managed to compete vigorously with Australia, leading the match for an incredible 91 minutes. That was, before the Matildas equalised through Emily Van Egmond.
Weaknesses: Form. Form is a peculiar thing. Some of the best teams in football, men's or women's, have suffered through periods of poor form, and it can be a challenging thing to reverse. There's no doubt that China is currently grappling with a particularly harsh bout of it. With just one goal and no wins this calendar year, the team need to find a solution quickly, or else the tournament could be over prematurely for the Steel Roses.
Even though the nation is within the top 15 of the FIFA World Rankings, China faces a challenging path to qualify for the knockout stages from their group. England will pose a formidable challenge, and Denmark will certainly not be easy to overcome. That said, the bare minimum expectation is that the Steel Roses do just that - so reaching the knockout round will be considered a pass for Shui Qingxia's (水庆霞) team.
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