China captain Wu Haiyan was only six years old when ‘The Steel Roses’ competed in their only Women’s World Cup final.

That time, their rivals the United States won a penalty shootout to break Chinese hearts in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

Sixteen years on, a new-look Chinese side will be bidding to bury those painful memories against the “Stars and Stripes” in Friday’s quarter-finals at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Stadium.

“I didn’t watch the match at that time. I watched replays later in life. It was an exciting and historical moment,” said the 22-year-old defender.

“I hope we can create history too tomorrow.”

That run by China to the final inspired Wu’s teammate Wang Shanshan to take up football.

“I was in primary school, but I remember watching it very well. That was when my dream started, when China played so well to reach the World Cup final. Sun Wen was my favourite player and my hero at that time,” said the 25-year-old defender.

It was also the last time the United States won the title, having also lifted the inaugural trophy in 1991 in China.

The second-ranked Americans are rated 14 places above their opponents and the Chinese have additional motivation, having also lost out on gold to the USA at the 1996 Olympics.

China coach Hao Wei, back on the sidelines after being banished to the stands for their last-16 win over Cameroon, had more practical things than revenge on his mind.

“What’s past is past. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s match. We’ve prepared for everything including extra time and a penalty shootout,” he told the pre-match press conference.

“I don’t think it’s vengeance or anything like that. It’s just a match we have to approach in our usual mindset.

“We haven’t played the US for a long time on such a scale.

“If we put on a good performance this will be a boost for the sport in China.”

Evergreen Rampone

The Americans will be without two of their key players — Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday — through suspension.

But US captain Christie Rampone, the only survivor from the 1999 final, is still playing for the United States at age 40.

Rampone, capped 307 times, remained on the bench during that match in Pasadena.

She could also start on the bench on Friday while, if she scores, Abby Wambach would join Brazil’s Marta as the record all-time World Cup goal scorer.

“I think she (Wambach) would be ready to go for 90 minutes if asked,” said US coach Jill Ellis.

“It’s about selecting the right tools that we feel will be beneficial in this match.”

“China, they don’t give much away. They are a very organised team, probably one of the best-organised teams in the tournament.

“They make it very, very hard for you to break down. China always have players on their team who are very technical and very disciplined.

“This is obviously a younger team then was on the field in ’99. China have gone through a resurgence. They were very prominent for a long time. They have worked hard to re-establish themselves on the world stage.

“It’s a young team, a hungry team, an organised team, a lot of similarities (with us) in what they want. They are going to be a very good opponent as they were in 1999.”

By AFP
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