EDMONTON - China has gone from a nation that failed to qualify for the last Women's World Cup to one that has secured it's spot in the quarter-finals in this one.
The Chinese women survived an early scare on Saturday to blank 53rd-ranked Cameroon 1-0 in front of a crowd of 15,958 at Commonwealth Stadium and advance through the Round of 16.
"All of our players were wonderful today," said Chinese assistant coach Chang Weiwei. "They put on a spectacular performance. They were very brave, like warriors. They fought like real warriors for over 90 minutes.
"They gave us a lot of pressure and it was important to reinforce our defence and stymie their attack. All the players worked very hard. We still have some room for improvement on offence."
Chinese defender Li Dongna coughed up the ball in front of her net in the opening minute, but Madeleine Ngono Mani shot it high.
In the 12th minute, 16th-ranked China made up for the early mistake by taking a 1-0 lead. A corner kick by Wang Lisi was fielded by Dongna, who sent it in front to Wang Shanshan. Shanshan took a shot out of mid-air in front to score her second goal of the World Cup.
Cameroon had another decent opportunity on a free kick in the 22nd minute, but Gabrielle Onguene hit the side of the net.
China had the bulk of the first-half chances, including a flurry in the final minute, but the game remained 1-0 at halftime.
Wang Shanshan almost had her third goal of the tournament in the 61st, but couldn't settle down a breakaway pass and chipped it wide.
Cameroon came close again in the 65th minute as a Gaelle Enganamouit header landed on top of the Chinese crossbar. Shortly after, China goalie Wang Fei made a big save on Ajara Nchout.
Cameroon continued to battle back, but were unable to get the equalizing goal.
The loss ended a terrific underdog story for the Cameroon Lionesses, who had a very strong showing in Group C with a 6-0 win over Ecuador, a narrow 2-1 loss to Japan and a 2-1 victory over Switzerland to show from their first Women's World Cup appearance.
"It was a bad day for the Cameroon national team," said coach Enow Ngachu. "We played a very good side and they used their experience to beat us. This is a learning experience for our team and we played against some very good teams here and a top side tonight. Hopefully in our future games we won't commit the same errors."
The Chinese squad, which went 1-1-1 in group round play, were playing without head coach Hao Wei, who was suspended one game after getting tangled up with a New Zealand player after a ball went out of play in their last outing.
"Before the game we imagined many scenarios and plans and anticipated what might happen in the game," Chang Weiwei said. "We were well-prepared for the game. Those plans played an important role and worked."
China will go on to play the winner of a round-of-16 match between the United States and Colombia in Edmonton on Monday.