China, Spain progress to World Cup knockouts after draw

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China's Wang Shuang (C) competes during the Group B match between China and Spain at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in Le Havre, France, June 17, 2019. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (Xinhua/Ding Xu)

China and Spain both secured places in the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 knockout stage, after they shared the spoils in a 0-0 stalemate at Stade Océane on Monday.

Both sides finished their final group stage fixture on four points, with Spain qualifying as group runners-up due to their marginally superior goal difference, while China's points tally means they cannot be overhauled as one of the four best third-placed teams.

The Steel Roses' progression continues their record of never having missed the knockout stage when appearing at the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Germany thrashed South Africa 4-0 in Group B's other match to top the standings with three wins from as many matches.

In their now-familiar possession-based approach, Spain immediately seized control of most facets of the match, but a spate of missed opportunities meant they were unable to capitalise on their early dominance.

The two Garcias, Lucia and Nahikari, both had chances to score within the first 10 minutes, and by the time Marlona Caldentey sent an effort wide just after the half-hour mark the Spaniards had registered half a dozen unanswered efforts at the Chinese goal. 

That tally became 9-0 by half-time, but with Jennifer Hermoso's 39th minute header - superbly saved by Peng Shimeng – the closest Spain came to finding a breakthrough, Jia Xiuquan's side reached the interval with their clean sheet intact. 

When Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan – two of China's most potent attacking weapons, but both one yellow card away from a Round of 16 suspension – were both withdrawn before the hour mark, it began to appear as if a stalemate would suit the Steel Roses.

A promising opportunity almost fell into their lap with 20 minutes remaining, when Spanish goalkeeper Sandra Pa?os came darting out of the penalty area, only to completely miss the bouncing ball, but no player managed to get a shot away and the best Chinese opening of the match went begging. 

But the Steel Roses were at their most solid defensively, particularly in the second half, and the terrific Peng saved her best for the 83rd minute, when she was at full stretch to deny a Patri Guijarro shot that looked destined to find the bottom corner of the net.

Peng's display in goal saw her named the Player of the Match, and her second successive clean sheet proved pivotal as the eight-time Asian champions kept their campaign alive.

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