China bounce Cameroon from World Cup behind Wang’s winner

EDMONTON, Alberta —

China is back. After failing to qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup, China defeated Cameroon at Commonwealth Stadium 1-0 to keep alive its record of advancing at least to the quarterfinals in all six Women’s World Cups for which they qualified.

China will now face the winner of the U.S. vs. Colombia (live, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go, 8 p.m. ET) match that will be contested here Monday. If the U.S. wins — and Colombia via star striker Lady Adrande has a lot to say about that — it would reunite the pair from that historic 1999 Women’s World Cup final at the Rose Bowl, where China played the perfect and staunch foe for the United States women’s national team in that game-for-the-ages.

Shanshan Wang was the star for China, scoring early in the first half and almost connecting again on a breakaway in the 75th minute, when Cameroon goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom had to commit to a charging stop before colliding with Wang, who got off a shot but pushed it wide right. However, Wang could have had two more goals save for her failure to release quick enough shots. Her final breakaway chance in the 86th minute found her in the clear with a one-on-one with Cameroon’s goalkeeper, but she was denied.

Cameroon had its chances to score the equalizer, especially in the 66th minute when China goalkeeper Fei Wang came up big. Cameroon striker Gabrielle Onguene made a cross in front of the goal that eluded all China defenders and was picked up by Ajara Nchout, who delivered a chest-high shot from close range. Wang had moved left on the cross and was in the right position to make the grab.

For Cameroon, this World Cup performance must still be considered a success. Cameroon is the first African nation to advance to the knockout rounds of the World Cup since Nigeria in 1999. The Lionesses enjoyed their ride into the Round of 16 after blasting its way to a 6-0 win over Ecuador in its opening match of group play. They also beat fellow World Cup newcomer Switzerland before losing to defending champ Japan.

As one of eight debuntantes in this first-ever 24-team Women’s World Cup, Cameroon brought a passionate attacking style that saw them launch 84 shots. However, the percentage of those shots that were on target was well below 30 percent. Against China, Cameroon wasn’t shy about shooting, but only 24 percent of its 21 shots were on target.

That seemed to spell the difference in this match: Creativity and passion versus disciplined ball control. There was no mistaking that the matchup between Cameroon and China would showcase two distinctly different styles of soccer.

China came out and immediately demonstrated ball control and tempo command against a Cameroon side that had committed the third most fouls in the tournament and had been called offsides more than all other World Cup sides except three. For the opening minutes, Cameroon clearly wanted to make a quick impression, however their work on offense resulted in most of their shots being well off-target. China was able to organize and calmly move the ball away from their end and limit Cameroon’s options for second chances.

China struck first and early when, in the 12th minute, Shanshan Wang drilled a goal off a pass from Dongna Li to give China the 1-0 lead. Minutes later, Cameroon had its best so far in the match to even things up when Gabrielle Onguene broke down the right side of the field and tapped a pass back to the top of the box, but Gaelle Enganamout could not connect.

China was without coach Hao Wei, who was ejected from the side’s final group match against New Zealand. But there’s no doubt that Wei has this team headed in the right direction. He was appointed after China failed to qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup and 2012 Olympics and has given the team a game plan and stocked it with young players: 15 of China’s 23 players are under the age of 24 at the start of the Women’s World Cup. None had any previous World Cup experience.

These are clearly new and better times for China, as it climbs out of a soccer drought that has seen the women’s team plummet in the FIFA World Rankings over the past decade. China’s leaders have set new goals for the coming years to increase soccer participation in order to raise the country’s soccer prowess. With the win here in Canada on Saturday, China has already exceeded expectations given their results in international matches of late. At the Algarve Cup in Portugal this March, China finished in last place.