Players of China greet the audience after the Group B match between China and Spain at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in Le Havre, France, June 17, 2019. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)
China held firm to tie Spain 0-0 in their final Group B match in the FIFA Women's World Cup here on Monday, as both sides make knockout stage with the draw.
Jia Xiuquan's team claimed only one attacking attempts, which came in the 51st minute, against Spain's 24 throughout the game.
"It's not an easy draw, even without a single score," said a tearful Jia, former coach of China's U-19 men's national team.
"My players defended hard and their mental persistence moved me," he explained to a post-match mixed zone why he's coming off the pitch with tears.
"It's all about teamwork. We came through all the ups and downs to draw a valuable point from this game and we made it together," echoed Chinese defender and captain Wu Haiyan.
With the goalless tie, Spain finish second behind Germany and China in the third after the group leaders German side claimed a 4-0 rout over South Africa in a match having kicked off simultaneously in Montpellier.
"Of course we're happy to qualify for the round of 16. We're continuing to make history," commented Spain's coach Jorge Vilda, whose side improved from a 20th-place finish from last World Cup to be at least round of 16 finalists in their second appearance.
"We knew a draw was a possibility," he added. "It would have been good to have scored, but I think today the Chinese goalkeeper was very very good."
The Steel Roses' goalie Peng Shimeng, who's voted Player of the Match, carried out a heroic performance in Stade Oceane, having cancelled 15 shooting opportunities from the rivals with a help of China's defending line led by skipper Wu Haiyan.
Keeping in mind that a draw would be enough to guarantee China a last 16 spot but a win may see them against the holders United States, the 1999 runners-up kept their starting 11 unchanged from South Africa victory and played a counter-attack format.
Only mistakes in Spain's passing allowing China to pose a little danger both before and after the interval.
Spain, on the other hand, tried to their full reach to create opportunities, not only through possession, but also with long balls to right winger Lucia Garcia and front attacker Nahikari Garcia.
Jennifer Hermoso nailed the best first-half chance for La Roja, nodding towards the Chinese goal with a tight angle following a Virginia Torrecilla cross to force keeper Peng Shimeng dive to save in the 39th minute.
The very fast Spaniards pushed even harder on China's defense after the break, but Gu Yasha, Liu Shanshan and Wu Haiyan and the keeper Peng were doing a good clearance job.
Paris Saint-German star Wang Shuang managed to attract the attention of rival defenders and tried to create spaces upfront before she's withdrawn at 55 by coach Jia, who sent on Li Wen, a 30-year-old defender.
The 24-year-old's attacking partner in China's runners-up performance at last year's Asian Games, Wang Shanshan, suffered a knee twist 28 minutes into the game and was substituted by Yang Li after the break.