EDMONTON (Canada) - China's "Steel Roses" marked their return to the elite of world football on Saturday, with a 1-0 win over Cameroon which booked them a ticket to the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup.
Coach Hao Wei had a touch-line ban and watched from the stands, as his side closed down the game early when Wang Shanshan got the opener after 12 minutes.
"Today all the players were wonderful, they put on a spectacular performance, demonstrating amazing resilience and bravery," said assistant coach Chang Weiwei. "They fought like warriors for over 90 minutes."
China, runners-up in 1999, failed to qualify for Germany 2011 or the London Olympics the following year. But the team have been revitalised since Hao was appointed coach soon after.
"Under the leadership of coach Hao over two or three years we have witnessed tremendous improvement in the Chinese team," said Chang. "He has selected many young players who are so energetic and enterprising. I think they can reach even higher goals in the future."
The defence of the 16th-ranked Chinese was rock solid, allowing few chances for 53rd-ranked Cameroon's energetic forwards. Cameroon's best chance of the first half was a free kick from Gaelle Enganamouit, which deflected from the wall into the path of Gabrielle Onguene, who fired into the side netting.
"Their team is very complete," said Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu. "They don't score many goals but they defend very well. We knew that if we conceded a goal, it would be very difficult for us. If they can keep on like that, they can create surprises."
China will face either the United States or Colombia in the final eight on Friday.
"Reaching the semis is my wish of course, but I call for more pay for the outstanding girls," remarked Internet user "Boiled Water" after hearing the news that China's women internationals earn less than 3,000 yuan (S$650) a month.
"A player among the top eight teams in the world cannot afford suntan lotion in their daily training? I can't accept that."