Written By: Helena Wang


The Chinese women’s national team (Photo by: Getty Images)

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After missing out on getting a place in the 2011 World Cup in Germany, China has proven to redeem themselves this year at the Asian qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup. Currently ranked number sixteen in the FIFA World Rankings, China is looking to recover themselves from 2011 with a squad that is strong and young (1).

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Trend of China’s team FIFA world rankings (Source: FIFA)

History of China’s Women Football

China’s women football team has had a long and vivid history, that stretches as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty years, as murals from the time were painted with women playing football (2). Modern women’s football first appeared in the 1920s where Shanghai became the hub and the place where the first women’s football team was established. The national team was then established in 1983, which allowed for international games with other teams.

These fixtures with other national teams allowed China’s team to significantly improve their technical level and rise to prominence in the women football world. In 1986, the Chinese team participated in Mundialito, which was prior to the establishment of the Women’s World Cup (3). China did particularly well, finishing in 3rd place after defeating Japan. With this international success, the Chinese team felt the desire to continue to achieve glory outside of Asia. The 1980s and 1990s represented a time when China dominated the Asian Cup, winning it consecutively six times.

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China’s World Cup record (Source: Wikipedia)

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China’s AFC Asian Cup record (Source: Wikipedia)

The late 1990s represented the glory years of Chinese women’s football (4). With stars such as Liu Ailing and Sun Wen, China played very well and advanced far in the 1996 Olympics  and 1999 World Cup, only losing in the championship game to US in both (5). Since then, the Chinese women’s football team has been on a downward trend. In the 2000 Olympics, the team drew with the US team and lost to rival Norway in the group stage, failing to advance out for the first time in history. Additionally, China’s status as a powerhouse in women’s football slowly ceased to exist as the Korean and Japanese teams began to rise in experience and talent (6).

A Disappointing 2010-11

Before 2011, China has qualified for every single World Cup through the Asian Cup. The 2010 Asian Cup swiftly changed the course of history for the team though. Held in China, the Asian Cup gave the team the home field advantage. The Chinese team advanced easily out of the group stages, but failed to finish in the top 3 to qualify for the World Cup. The team lost to North Korea in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup 0-1, and ultimately lost to Japan in the third place playoff 0-2. This represented a disappointing era for the Chinese women’s team, and led to the upheaval of the coaching staff, as Li Xiaopeng resigned. While the Chinese Football Association initially wanted to hire a foreign coach, Hao Wei was ultimately selected to become the new head coach.


China vs. Japan in the 2010 AFC Asian Cup Semi-Final (Photo by: Getty Images)

Looking Ahead: World Cup 2015

In the 2014 Asian Cup, China finished in 3rd place and automatically qualified for the 2015 World Cup, marking a return to form and success. The team finished in 2nd place in Group B of the Asian Cup, behind South Korea and lost to Japan in the semi-final 1-2. In the third place playoff, China again played South Korea and won 2-1 to finish 3rd.

China vs. South Korea in the third place play-off round

The 2015 World Cup squad are very young, with the majority of the players being born after 1990 (7). Coach Hao Wei has said,

“The average age of our players is under 23 and we are one of the youngest sides of the tournament. We have laid the foundation for the future national team”.

While there is no one standout player, this Chinese team is tightly knit and strong as a unit (8). They have spent the last three years training and playing together, thus enjoying a strong bond and unity. Wei has employed a defensive strategy with this team, achieving success by keeping strong opponents at bay through their exceptional physical capacity. The team also capitalizes on the talent of prolific scorers Ma Jun and Yang Li to create quick counter-attacks. Through this team, Wei has developed a young, technically strong side that can advance far in the competition (9).

Additionally, given the young age of this team, Wei is building a team that can represent the country for many years in the future. This team will be the one going into the 2016 Olympic Games and possibly the 2019 World Cup. While Group A of the 2015 World Cup will be a tough one to advance from, the future for China’s women football is bright and promising.

Player to Watch: Yang Li

China v United States

Yang Li playing against the US team on April 2015 (Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Nicknamed “Young Sun Wen” after China’s all-time leading scorer, Yang Li will be the player to watch during the tournament (10). The striker scored the most goals in the 2014 Asian Cup, six in five games, and helped to lead China to the 3rd place finish. Li has established herself as a consistent and prominent starter for China, rising in form since her first national call-up in February 2014. She cemented her place in the starting lineup at the Algarve Cup match against Norway, where she scored the match-winner against Norway.

Li’s strengths are her deadly finishing ability, as she usually capitalizes on passes or clearances to score (11). Combine that with her good aerial strengths and strong headers, she will be a force to be reckoned with come the 2015 World Cup.

 How to cite this page: “China” Written by Helena Wang (2015), World Cup 2015 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).

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Works Cited:

1. “China FIFA World Ranking,” FIFA, last modified March 27, 2015,

2. “China women’s national football team,” Wikipedia China, last modified 2015,

3. “Mundialito (women),” Wikipedia, last modified 2015,

4. “FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Wikipedia, last modified 2015,’s_World_Cup.

5. “China women’s national football team,” Wikipedia, last modified 2015,

6. “Japan top Asia’s broadening pyramid,” FIFA, last modified May 26, 2014,

7. “China: Profile,” FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, last modified 2015,

8. Tim Grainey, “Women’s World Cup 2015 Preview,” Tribal Football, last modified 2015,

9. “Ambitious Steel Roses aim high,” FIFA Women’s World Cup, last modified May 27, 2014,

10. “Young Sun Wen shoulders high expectations,” FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, last modified November 18, 2014,

11. Allison McCann, “USA Draws The ‘Group Of Death’ In 2015 Women’s World Cup,” FiveThirtyEight, last modified December 6, 2014,

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