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The Steel Roses have greater ambition: Eyjolfsson
Last Updated: 2018-04-12 10:05 | Xinhua
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With a comfortable 3-0 victory over the Philippines in their second group match in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2018 on Monday, the Chinese team has secured a berth in the semifinals and at the same time, also a spot at next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.

Icelander Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson, the head coach of the Steel Roses, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that although the side has completed their first goal for the tournament, his eyes are on the future and he and his players have greater ambitions.

"We are proud to have qualified for the World Cup in 2019 and to be the first Asian team to do so," Eyjolfsson said.

"We set our target before we came here, our players are clear about that. And we are an ambitious team, we want to go further," the 44-year-old added, "but now we should only focus on our next match."

Eyjolfsson took the reins of the East Asian team in November last year, replacing Frenchman Bruno Bini, who held the position since 2015, to become China's fourth ever foreign coach.

"I am very excited and, particularly, I am deeply honored that the Chinese Football Association (CFA) offered me this job. It is the greatest honor you can have as a coach to manage a national team and this is my second time," Eyjolfsson once said to the media after he was appointed as the Chinese women's team coach last year.

Indeed, the most glorious moment of Eyjolfsson's coaching career was during his tenure as Iceland women's team manager between 2006 and 2013 as he became the first coach to lead the nation to the UEFA Women's Championship finals in 2009 and repeat the success in 2013.

In 2011, he guided his team all the way to the final at the Algarve Cup, only to be beaten by the USA.

Before he was handed the reins of the Chinese national team, the Icelandic tactician served as the head coach of the Jiangsu FC women's team for over half a year.

But his first couple of months with the Chinese national team were filled with skepticism, especially when the team finished second to last with only one win at the Algarve Cup in March.

"Being the head coach of the Chinese national team is also a big challenge for me. If everyone is talking about the team, it's good because at least it means the fans care about the team. My job is to make up a team with good players and guide them to perform well in big tournaments," Eyjolfsson said.

"The changes are happening at the Asian Cup. As recently as one month ago, star goalkeeper Zhao Lina and veteran striker Gu Yasha seemed have little chance of appearing at the Asian Cup, but both were part of the side when they came to Jordan," the coach said.

Eyjolfsson revealed that the reason he took the duo to the tournament was because he wanted to include players with experience.

"Going into a big tournament you want to have goalkeepers and players with experience. They are familiar with the teammates and they have no problem adapting to the team," the Icelandic coach said.

With a comfortable 4-0 win in the opening match against Thailand, and then another sweet 3-0 victory over the Philippines, the record eight-time Asian champions showed absolute dominance in Group A.

For Eyjolfsson and his players, the challenge should start in the knock-out stage, where they could face Australia, defending champions Japan, or South Korea.

"It is really difficult to predict which teams can survive in the other group, all three teams are tough to play. We should get prepared for any possible rivals in the semifinals," Ejyolfsson said.

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