Eight-time champions China virtually sealed a place in the quarter-finals and underlined their AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 title credentials by cruising to a 7-0 win over Iran at Mumbai Football Arena here on Sunday.
Wang Shuang scored a birthday brace, Wang Shanshan too scored a double, Xiao Yuyi and Tang Jiali contributed a goal each while Iran’s Fatemeh Adeli scored an own goal as Shui Qingxia’s side continued their blistering start to the tournament and set their sights towards the latter stages of the competition.
The result leaves Iran’s quarter-final ambitions hinging on Wednesday’s clash against Chinese Taipei, which is likely to be pivotal to both sides’ knockout stage hopes.
As expected, China dominated the match, enjoying 80.4 percent possession, and attempted 23 shots and 12 of them on target, resulting in six goals. Iran could get only one shot on target.
The Steel Roses returned to the scene of Thursday’s 4-0 win over Chinese Taipei eager to build on their fast start, and they quickly assumed control against a deep-lying Iranian defence.
Wang Shanshan forced a strong save from Zohreh Koudaei in the 10th minute, and the star goalkeeper got down low to deny the Chinese captain once again five minutes later, continuing the form which saw her voted Player of the Match in Thursday’s 0-0 draw against India.
It seemed that it would take something special to beat Iran’s number one, and that’s exactly what Wang Shuang provided in the 28th minute, picking out the bottom corner with a perfectly directed left-footed effort from the edge of the box to celebrate her 27th birthday in style.
Coach Maryam Irandoost’s Iran side was never easily broken down, but China produced a move that would have picked apart the very best defences just before halftime, with Zhang Xin’s slide-rule pass setting up Xiao Yuyi, who duly caressed the ball into the net to make it 2-0 two minutes before half-time.
Iran’s dynamic teenage striker Negin Zandi was introduced at half-time as they looked for a way back into the match, but their cause suffered a significant blow when Melika Motevalli clumsily fouled Chinese substitute Li Mengwen, with Wang Shuang easily beating Koudaei from the penalty spot to make the points all but safe in the 49th minute.
The earlier intensity of the game now noticeably absent, Wang Shanshan extended the lead when she poked home Xiao Yuyi’s cross in the 55th minute, and the same duo teamed up four minutes later to increase the tally to 5-0.
China’s superior fitness and technique was evident throughout the second half, and they duly added a sixth through Tang Jiali 77th minute, with the Tottenham forward finding the net with the swerving effort 15 minutes after her introduction as a substitute, before adding a speculative second when her lobbed-pass was helped in by Fatemeh Adeli’s touch.
The Steel Roses won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup a record seven consecutive teams between 1986 and 1999, but haven’t added to their tally since lifting the 2006 title in Australia.
Going by their performance on Sunday, they are slowly warming up to the idea of challenging the likes of Japan and Australia for the title. They will need to be at their ultimate best to beat the higher-ranked teams.