Wang Shuang’s extra-time winner sends China into Olympics

Society & Culture

The lore of Wang Shuang — and her status as China's most popular current footballer — grows. Last week, she put the national team on her back in the finals of the Tokyo Olympics qualifier.

The China women’s national soccer side booked its place at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday with a thrilling come-from-behind effort against South Korea, advancing 4-3 on aggregate.

China arrived home to Suzhou with a 2-1 advantage after its first leg in Korea, but found itself staring down the barrel of defeat after Korea scored two first-half goals.

In the 31st minute, West Ham’s Cho So-hyun showed a lovely piece of footwork and skill to bring the ball to the byline before finding center-forward Kang Chae-rim, who finished comfortably.

The goal rocked the Chinese defense. Perhaps feeling the weight of expectation, the defense totally lost its shape, allowing Korea to continue passing through a once-organized press.

Near halftime, Lǐ Mèngwén 李梦雯 turned the ball into her own goal to give Korea a 2-0 advantage. Leaving the changing room for the second half, China knew it would need a goal to keep its Olympics dreams alive.

Enter Wáng Shuāng 王霜.

Despite a quiet first half, the Chinese midfield dynamo came alive when her team needed her the most.

After Lóu Jiāhuì 娄佳惠 won a free kick 30 yards out, Wang stepped up to take it in the 69th minute. This was the result:

A peach of a low dipping delivery in the box fooled the Korean defense before being redirected — just barely — by 6’1 Yáng Màn 杨曼 into the goal.

With the sides all level on aggregate, it was game on.

In extra time, the two teams began tentatively, offering up little in the way of clear-cut opportunities. That was until Wang Shuang struck again, collecting a pass from Wáng Shānshān 王珊珊 on the edge of the Korean box. A quick look up, a slight touch to bring the ball out of her feet, and a devastating strike later, China had the lead with just 15 minutes left to play.

Wang wheeled away with her hand cupped to her ear, reveling in the cheers of the 10,000 fans (what was allowed inside the stadium).

At the final whistle, Wang sank to her knees, emotionally and physically drained after dragging her team to the Olympics. However, a wry smile gave away the relief she felt as she was mobbed by her teammates.

This game likely goes down as among China’s most iconic wins, the kind that can inspire the side when it travels to Tokyo in the summer.

Wang, meanwhile, has secured her spot as arguably China’s most beloved soccer player at the moment, male or female.


Messi secures 50,000 Sinovac COVID shots

Global soccer superstar Lionel Messi has helped obtain 50,000 doses of China’s Sinovac COVID vaccine in an attempt to vaccinate all of South America’s soccer players before the continent’s Copa America this summer.

The plan was the brainchild of Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou, who, with the help of Messi, helped secure the deal with the Chinese firm.

As reported in the Guardian, Messi donated three signed shirts to Sinovac executives.

“Sinovac’s directors manifested their admiration for Lionel Messi, who kindly sent us three shirts for them,” tweeted the Conmebol official Gonzalo Belloso.

Under the plan, the 50,000 doses will be given to all the players in Argentina’s 26 top-flight clubs, and will be offered to all potential participants in the Copa America.

Despite the plan, Argentina has yet to approve the use of Sinovac inside the country; Conmebol officials are in talks to give the players an exception.

Uruguay and Argentina currently have the highest rates of new cases of COVID in the world. Reacting to the news, the mayor of the Uruguayan city Canelones questioned the decision to give footballers the doses first.

“Just as the president manifested cooperation with Conmebol to vaccinate for the Copa América, he could just as well have the same consideration for Canelones.”

Currently, only 12.4% of Canelones have been vaccinated.


Other Stories:

Messi’s Sinovac deal shows vaccine is not a level playing field (SCMP)

Li Baoqiao drafted in Canadian Football League’s BC Lions (BC Lions)

China ready for shot at snooker glory as it pushes to dominate the sport (Financial Times)

Xinjiang cotton issue divides China’s biggest sportswear group (Nikkei)

Inside Curling: Pressure mounts on China to do well in home Olympics (Sportsnet)

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.