China to Play Italy in FIFA Women’s World Cup Last 16

By Tom Lamming, June 24, 2019

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Heading into Tuesday’s last 16 tie against Italy, the route to the knockout stages has been far from smooth for Jia Xuiquan’s team.

The Tournament So Far:

The Steel Roses kicked off their campaign with the daunting task of facing two-time World champions Germany in Rennes. 

Despite a plucky performance, Yang Li missed two gilt-edged opportunities in the first half to put her team in the ascendency. 

Those misses were duly punished in the 64th minute when German teenage sensation, Giula Gwinn, struck the only goal of the game with a well-driven shot past Chinese goalkeeper Peng Shimeng from the edge of the box. 

Matchday two saw lift off in Group B for China. A hard-fought victory against a South African side giving the team their first points of the tournament. 

Despite a spirited performance from Banyana Banyana, the dominance could and probably should have provided more goals for Jia’s team.

Li Ying provided the only goal of the game, with a poacher’s finish past a stranded Kaylin Swart five minutes before half time. 

The final match of the group stage for The Steel Roses came against Spain. The Spaniards are ranked just two places in front of China in the world rankings. Heading into the tournament it was billed as a potential make or break game for both teams.

However, the clash in Le Havre ultimately turned into a dead rubber with the result suiting both parties nicely. Honors even thanks in no small part to a Player of the Match performance from the Chinese wall that was Peng Shimeng in goal.

Finishing third in Group B with four points, China qualified for the knockout stages as one of the highest ranked third-placed teams. 

692106813.jpgImage via Xinhua

The Opponent:

Le Azzure enters the round of 16 tie as the more in-form team, heading up Group C with two wins and a loss. Defeating Australia 2-1 and Jamaica 5-0 before falling to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Marta’s Brazil in Matchday 3.

Players to Watch:

Barbara Bonansea:

The standout player for Le Azzure, Bonansea was a key protagonist in the Italian’s run to qualification for their first World Cup in 20 years. The Juventus winger sealed a domestic double with Il Bianconere in the 2018/19 season. In Matchday 1 the winger scored the all-important 95th-minute winner to propel her team past Australia.

Cristina Girelli:

Teammates with Bonansea for club and country, Girelli has been a prolific striker all her career and has shown nothing less than her best so far this World Cup. Netting a hat-trick in the 5-0 drubbing of Jamaica in Matchday 2, China will need to keep close tabs on Girelli to stand any chance of progression.

Image via Xinhua

Our prediction: 

China 1-2 Italy

As the lowest scoring team in the knockout phase with just one goal, it goes without saying Jia Xuiguan’s team must be more efficient in front of goal to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter-final stage. China will look to the goalscoring prowess of PSG superstar Wang Shuang and her partner in crime Wang Shansan to keep their World Cup campaign going.

READ MORE: FIFA Women's World Cup Preview: Can China March to Glory?

China play against Italy at midnight on June 26 (CST) in Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier. You can watch that game on CCTV 5 from 11.46pm on June 25. 

[Cover image via Xinhua]

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