“We cannot just dwell on the past,” Jia, the coach, said. “Everything is improving and moving forward. So I hope we can grasp every opportunity by competing against these strong teams.”
He added a note of urgency.
“Once you lag behind,” he said, “it will be very difficult to catch up.”
China drew a tough group and, as expected, lost its opening match, 1-0, to Germany, a two-time World Cup champion that ultimately won the group. China won its second match against South Africa, 1-0. In Monday’s draw, Spain dominated. The Chinese failed to take a shot in the first half and had only one in the second; Spain took 24. Only a heroic effort by the goalkeeper, Peng Shimeng, saved China. She was named player of the match.
Mark Dreyer, a British writer in Beijing who has covered Chinese sports for more than a decade, said the national teams are hampered by what he described as a “military style system” of coaching and training that stifles individual skills, creativity and even personality.
Wang, the star player, seems to have riled the coach. She started the opening match against Germany on the bench even though she is the reigning Asian player of the year.
“I don’t need a star in my team,” Jia replied acidly, when asked why afterward. “I need a team.”
Another player, Li Ying, had to play with her arm covered in a sleeve, obscuring her colorful tattoos — lest the televised broadcasts fall afoul of the censors back home, who regularly scramble images of tattoos as signs of decadence.
“It’s ridiculous that Chinese players are forced to wear accessories that can only hinder performance,” Dreyer wrote.