Tuesday 02 August 2016, 00:46

Prolific Wang eyes opening win for China

China PR enter the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 with an enhanced reputation, and much of the team’s hopes fall on forward Wang Shanshan. On more than one occasion, the 26-year-old Tianjin hot-shot has come to the Steel Roses rescue, a point borne out during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™ when Wang scored the second goal in a 2-2 draw against New Zealand which sealed her side's progression before her lone strike downed Cameroon in the Round of 16.

Wang would continue to enhance her reputation for scoring crucial goals in March's AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, netting the match-winning goal against Korea Republic which sealed China's qualification for Rio 2016. Most recently, she broke the deadlock as China beat Zimbabwe 3-0 in a pre-tournament friendly. Needless to say, Chinese fans will look to her goalscoring form as the Asian side aim to open brightly against hosts Brazil on Wednesday.

Wang, though, has set her sights on more than just finding the back of the net. "I became more confident after the Women's World Cup and Asian Olympic qualifying," she told FIFA.com. "But I need to run harder and fight for the ball. Besides, I should try to broaden my vision and improve my passing ability.

"We are proud of playing in the Olympic Games," continued Wang, who played a pivotal role in helping China return to the global showpiece after eight years. "And we want to achieve good results. We want to prove ourselves. But we should be aware that there is a gap between us and the strong teams. We should focus on improving our play when playing against the world's best."

Return to predatory role Wang was the lone striker as China stormed all the way to the last eight at Canada 2015 upon their return to the Women's World Cup. And she maintains her starting place under new French coach Bruno Bini. Her prolific form, though, belies the fact that she used to be a centre-back with the national team and was pushed up front by former China coach Hao Wei just a month before Canada 2015.

Wang, however, proved to fit into the new role with ease. And she would begin to thrive in the forward position thereafter by scoring regularly at the international level. While Wang raised many eyebrows as a newly-converted striker, those following her game closely know that it was not the first time she has showcased her predatory talents. In fact, Wang had been a notable forward for Tianjin before, finishing the 2014 season as the league's top scorer with an incredible 38 goals.

In a sense, she has returned to the usual position in which she has proved so successful. "My major strengths are my pace," Wang said. "And I can leap well to score through my head. My favourite players are (Lionel) Messi and (Luis) Suarez. They always keep their cool and they waste few chances. I admire them for their superb finishing ability. Messi is also unselfish, often providing the assists for team-mates to score."

Bini’s tenure in charge of China got off to a dream start as he guided the team to their Olympic return. For Wang, the Frenchman has brought new and refreshing changes. "Under coach Bini, our confidence is growing,” she said. “Each day, he tells us something new. He usually encourages us (to do our work well) with a motto, a poem. And we will have our new team song heading into a new tournament. (With his guidance), the team unity is getting better and the spirit is going up."

Bini has openly expressed his intent of winning a medal at Rio 2016. Wang, for her part, opted to concentrate on gaining international experience and exposure. “This team is pretty young. We felt much more tense at the start of the previous Women’s World Cup, but through training and playing we gradually relaxed and found our feet. We aim to get satisfying results but we are still lacking in experience. We need to learn and improve.”

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