China PR’s coach reshuffle adds intrigue to Westfield Matildas clashes

How will China PR play under new Icelandic coach  Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson and his assistant, Chinese great Sun Wen when they face the Westfield Matildas? 

That’s the question ahead of two big friendlies against Alen Stajcic’s Australians in Victoria this week.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) made the change last week, replacing Frenchman Bruno Bini (though keeping him on in a technical role). 

At the back end of a mammoth year in which they’ll play around 20 games, the Chinese have turned to a manager who had been coaching in China this year with Jiangsu Suning’s female side, and found success with his native Iceland earlier in his career.

Previously, Sigurdur, 44, had been the manager of the Iceland national women's team from 2007 to 2013, where he was quite successful on the European Championship scene.

Iceland qualified for the European Championship for the first time in 2009 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament in 2013.

The CFA said that Sun Wen, former national women's team captain and one of the world’s greatest players of the 1990s era, will be Sigurdur's assistant.

New China PR coach Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson (far right)
New China PR coach Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson (far right)

Speaking about China last week before the coaching change, Westfield Matildas coach Alen Stajcic noted their exciting players.

Dalian Quanjian forward Wang Shuang - their “Lady Messi” as she’s been dubbed by Chinese media – has been named in the touring squad to face Australia.

Stajcic’s describes Wang Shuang as a “fantastic” talent for an emerging national team that’s battle-hardened after a huge numbers of games in 2017.

Wang Shuan
Wang Shuan, dubbed "Lady Messi" by Chinese media

“They are a lot like us, a young team for the most part and an improving team and one that’s aiming to re-emerge as a world superpower,” Stajcic said.

“They are definitely one of the contenders for [next year’s] Asian Cup.

“She’s a left footer and young, only 21, exciting player,” said Stajcic when asked about Wang Shuang.

“She is probably emerging now, I’d say, as one of the top three or four players in Asia.

"An excellent dribbler, excellent left foot, great awareness. Can play out wide on the wing.

“Along with Wang Shanshan up front, they are their two best players by a mile.

"They are fantastic talents.”