De Jaiojaio is the China women's team most capped player with 154 caps. Along with Wang Mengyu and Xu Xiaoxu, she is one of the few survivors of the team that won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 24-year-old has been pivotal in her team's sparkling start to this tournament: China has drawn with Germany 1-1 and beaten third-ranked England by a 3-0 margin. The results leave the Chinese in a strong position after two matches; they are in second place behind Argentina separated by goal difference only.
De Jaiojaio's importance to the team is undeniable. Despite only being 24 herself, her experience will be vital in this World Cup as the China team is very much in a period of transition. With only a handful of players left from their most recent global hockey event – the London 2012 Olympics, where China finished 6th – and with 10 of the players on less than 50 caps, it will be the old hands who are providing the calmness and composure as the tournament progresses. The average age of the China team is 23.5 years, which is to noticeably young, but there has been a sea-change in personnel recently. De Jaiojaio is the third oldest player, with 27-year-old, Xu Xiaoxu, the oldest member of the squad. 19-year-old Wang Na is one of two teenagers named on the China roster, with 19-year-old goalkeeper Guo Jiajia also gaining selection. 20-year-old Gu Bingfeng is the only member of the team to have competed in last year’s ERGO Hockey Junior World Cup in Möchengladbach, Germany, where China finished 12th.
This transition phase for the Chinese team was inevitable: few of the players who continued post-Beijing would be expected to continue past London as well, but even so, coach You Baodong will be more than pleased with the way his young, inexperienced side has adapted to international competition in The Hague. The focus for the coach and his senior members now will be to raise the team's level of performance as the tournament progresses. So far China showed they could be physical and composed in their draw with Germany, and in the match against England, they soaked up a barrage of goal-mouth pressure before taking advantage of England's frustrations and scoring on the break.
At the last World Cup, China finished eighth, but with the start they have enjoyed, the team ranked seventh in the world will be hoping for a much higher finish. It will take the cool heads De Jaiojaio and Xu Xiao to ensure that their form continues as they have recently demonstrated a propensity to wilt in the latter stages of a tournament. One such example of a dramatic falling off in form came last September at the Asia Cup continental championship in Kuala Lumpur. China were topping Pool A with three wins from three matches. However, they could not take their early form into the latter stages of the competition and finished fourth behind Japan (1st), Korea (2nd) and India (3rd). The youthful side also recently performed admirably in a test series against New Zealand’s Black Sticks, losing the first game 3-2 before drawing the second match 1-1.
For De Jaiojaio and her teammates, this World Cup is a part of a long-term plan to build the young squad into a top-three ranked hockey nation. But with Argentina faltering against the USA and England failing to live up to their pre-tournament hype, there is every chance that the Chinese could make a significant mark on this World Cup.
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