Tuesday 21 August 2018, 16:58

Sun Wen: Individual ability of the players has impressed me

  • Sun Wen is a legend of the women’s game

  • Former China PR forward was co-voted FIFA Women's Player of the Century

  • She spoke with FIFA.com about this year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup

When people think of great players in women’s football, the name of Sun Wen is usually one that comes to mind. Co-voted FIFA Women’s Player of the Century alongside former USA star Michelle Akers, the former China PR forward enjoyed an illustrious 13-year playing career at the highest level.

This included four FIFA Women’s World Cup™ (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003) and two Women’s Olympic Football Tournament (1996, 2000) appearances. At USA 1999, the striker won the adidas Golden Ball as the competition’s top player and shared the adidas Golden Boot as the tournament’s top goalscorer.

Currently at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018, the FIFA Legend spoke with FIFA.com and assessed what she has seen at this year’s tournament in Brittany.

FIFA.com: What have been your impressions of this U-20 Women’s World Cup so far? Sun Wen: I think now youth football on the women’s side has developed very quickly, especially in Europe. Individually, the ability has been much higher than the Asian players. That’s what I’ve thought. Also, all the teams are more competitive with each other, which is very good for women’s football.

Has anything surprised you at this competition? Individual ability, such as the players from France and Spain. They are good in both the technical and tactical aspects, but the smartest players are the Japanese. They are mature beyond their age and play with composure and good team work. I think for these kind of things, they are much better than the European players. They are also good decision makers, which is very important in a game. They can always make the right decision, so this is the wonderful thing that I was happy to see.

What have you thought of the performances of the three European semi-finalists - England, France and Spain? If you look at their performances, you can see they have very talented players, with outstanding physical strength. Someone like France’s Emelyne Laurent, who is very, very fast. Also, the France winger Sandy Baltimore has very good skill and also has a very good fitness advantage. The Spanish players play like the men’s team. They are well trained tactically and have good skills. I only saw England play against Japan and I was a little bit disappointed, as they didn’t play like before with their very fast counter-attacking, but I still think all three of them showed how good European football is right now.

After narrowly missing out on a place in the knockout stages, how did you think China PR fared at France 2018? For us, it is a little bit of a pity that we didn’t make it to the next stage, but it’s a good lesson, as they are still young and they have a good future in the long term to improve. It’s also a good way for us to discover any problems, so we can improve in our training and our youth system to solve these problems.

You were a goalscorer at the highest level during your career. Have any strikers or goalscorers caught your eye at this competition? I think Japan’s Jun Endo and Riko Ueki are creative and good with the ball at their feet. I think Laurent has a very good future and potential. She reminds me of Kylian Mbappe, as they are very similar.

You have played in a final of a Women’s World Cup and the Olympics. From your experience, what do the players of Japan and Spain need to focus on, ahead of Friday’s big match? I was a bit worried about the Spain team because they were too excited after their last match. It’s not a good sign for the players, who are going to play in the final because we all have this experience. When we played [at the Women’s World Cup] in 1999, we won 5-0 in the semi-finals against Norway, and after, we were too excited. I think you have to stay calm and to think about the next game, to be ready for the challenge ahead in the final.