As we enter the final match day of the group stage, China vs Spain, a group B encounter which takes place at Le Havre, will decide who will join likely group winners Germany in the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup.
Looking at the current standings, La Roja are second on virtue of a better goal difference and a draw on Monday will be enough for them to go through. From China’s viewpoint, by knowing that the four best third-placed teams will also reach the last-16, they may qualify even if they don’t beat Spain.
Currently, they are second in the best-ranked third-placed teams and a point is enough for them to contest a potential last-16 match against possible group D winners England or Group C winners Italy. With the qualifying scenarios put aside, let us take a look at how the two sets of players have performed so far.
China defensively astute so far
China were typically very good defensively against Germany and posed a considerable threat on the counter. The Asian giants can count themselves unlucky not to score that day, eventually losing the game by a goal to nil.
However, they put things right against South Africa when their star striker Li Ying scored to lead her country to an important 1-0 win.
In both games the main core of this Chinese team, which is their defence, were phenomenal. If we look at the Twelve player rankings, the centre-back duo of Lin Yuping and skipper Wu Haiyan are in the top-three of their leader board.
Zhang Rui has been pulling the strings in midfield and deservedly leads the leaderboard for the Asian giants. Their key player – Wang Shuang, who came off the bench against Germany and played the full 90 against South Africa – needs to step her game up if China are to better their quarter-final finish from the previous World Cup.
Spain look good going forward
Spain began their World Cup campaign with a comfortable 3-1 win over South Africa. Star striker Jennifer Hermoso scored two penalties to lead a comeback after they were rocked by an early goal from Thembi Kgatlana.
In their second game against Germany, Jorge Vilda’s team had the better of the chances but they weren’t clinical enough. Hermoso played a slightly deeper role in that game, allowing Nahikari Garcia to lead the line. However, the 22-year-old missed one golden opportunity to put her country ahead.
Hence it won’t be a surprise if Spain’s star striker gets her place back as the leading striker against China. She also leads the leader board for her team after the two games.
Central midfielder Virginia Torrecilla has been dominant in midfield and deserves to be second. The centre-back pairing of Irene Paredes and Mapi Leon, who have been pretty good so far, follow the suit.
Both teams have shown positive signs so far in their respective two games. While Spain look good going forward and decent enough at the back, China have been rock solid at the back and a genuine threat on the counter. Hence, we can expect a close contest between them. Knowing that a draw would be enough for both teams to qualify, a cagey affair could be on the cards.