China negotiated a tough group at the Fifa Women's World Cup in France on Monday night with a draw against Spain at the Stade Ocean in Le Havre.
The point was enough to take both sides through to the knockout stages, which start on Saturday, but crucially the draw means China avoid the world No 1-ranked United States in the next round.
Both teams finished on four points but Spain finish second in group B because of a better goal difference.
Their reward is a likely meeting with the fearsome USWNT, who are top of their group after two games and face Sweden on Thursday. China, who advance as one of the best third-placed teams as the 24-team tournament moves into the last-16, may yet play England.
The result was greeted with joy on Chinese social media, because the team have avoided the tournament favourites.
"Steel Roses" goalkeeper Peng Shimeng was voted player of the match for a string of saves from the Spanish front line. By contrast China did not have a shot on the Spain goal in the first half.
They had one by the end of the game, compared to 24 for Spain over the 90 minutes, with zero on target from the Steel Roses. Spain also enjoyed 63 per cent of the possession.
That did not stop China coach Jia Xiuquan from bursting into tears at the final whistle, explaining in the mixed zone that his players' "persistence" moved him after their resolute defending. "It's not an easy draw," he said.
Central midfielder Zhang Rui was also in tears after the game as was goalkeeper Peng, who said she cried because her coach had, and she had never seen him in tears before.
The 21-year-old said she was enjoying her first World Cup and became more confident as the game went on. Her performance, which included her crashing into a post, was universally praised online.
Steel Roses skipper Wu Haiyan praised the teamwork shown by China. "We came through all the ups and downs to draw a valuable point from this game and we made it together," said the defender.
Spain coach Jorge Vilda praised Peng in the Chinese goal: "I think today the Chinese goalkeeper was very, very good." China right back Han Peng admitted that Spain had been the stronger team, both technically and physically.
Why young stars Zhang Yuning and Wang Shuang could spearhead China's dreams of soccer domination
Paris St Germain's Wang Shuang, the Asian footballer of the year, was taken off after 55 minutes, just after China took their only shot of the game. She was replaced with defender Li Wen. Many commenters wondered about her fitness.
Wang's appearance had been discussed before the game. China's star player had begun the loss to Germany on the bench before playing 90 minutes in the win over South Africa. She returned to Jia's starting line-up for the decisive game in Le Havre but was taken off early in the second half.
China face the winners of either group C or D. Group D will be 2011 champions Japan or England, while Australia, Brazil or Italy could still win group C.
Elsewhere, South Korea have been knocked out after losing 2-1 to Norway but Asia's other representatives are all still in. Thailand's chances of advancing are slim as they need to overhaul their -17 goal difference but Japan and China are already through while Australia could join them.
China's round of 16 game will either be in Valenciennes on June 23 or Montpellier on June 25. Their previous best performance at a World Cup was when they were beaten finalists in 1999, losing on penalties to the USWNT.
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.Artikel Asli