SHANGHAI: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo step aside — the hottest striker in world football at the moment is China’s “Nine-Goal Diva” Wang Shanshan.
Wang earned that nickname from Chinese fans and media when she plundered a scarcely believable nine goals in a dizzying 29 minutes after coming off the bench in a 16-0 demolition of Tajikistan on Monday at the Asian Games in Indonesia.
The forward has found the net a total of 11 times, netting in the 7-0 opening victory over Hong Kong and adding a soaring header as China’s women beat formidable North Korea 2-0 on Wednesday to top their group and make the quarter-finals in style.
China’s free-scoring women, yet to concede a goal, are being feted back home and 28-year-old Wang in particular is making headlines for her astonishing prowess in front of goal.
There have been tongue-in-cheek suggestions that she could be the answer to the goal-scoring problems of the Chinese men.
Wang’s sizzling form is all the more surprising because prior to the past week she was hardly prolific, although she did catch eyes by scoring a backheel volley against South Korea last year — the kind of exquisite strike that Messi and Ronaldo would be proud of.
She currently plies her trade in China’s little-noticed domestic women’s league.
“For the past three group matches, Wang Shanshan scored 11 goals and became Chinese women’s football’s talisman,” China’s Tencent Sports said in an online article.
“In more crucial tournaments, Wang Shanshan will become the key player in helping the women’s team win gold.”
Against the North Koreans, midfielder Wang Shuang, who recently signed for Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team, opened the scoring in the eighth minute, finishing off a fluid passing move.
“China’s women really have the chance to win the gold medal. The team is blessed to have Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan in this era,” said one fan on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
China’s evening ended on a sour note, however, after substitute Zhao Rong was sent off at the end and coach Jia Xiuquan followed her for complaining to officials.
China’s men play Saudi Arabia in the last 16 on Friday at the Asian Games, although they have struggled for goals in international football in recent times.