China has marked a “new start” for women’s football by reaching the final of the Women’s Asian Cup for the first time in 14 years, head coach Shui Qingxia said on Thursday.

China beat twice-defending champion Japan 4-3 in a penalty shootout to set up a final showdown with South Korea. The Chinese are aiming for a record-extending ninth title and their first since 2006.

“For the whole team and for women’s football in China it’s a new start because we hadn’t qualified for the finals for many years,” Qingxia told reporters.

‘Not an easy road’

“It wasn’t an easy road to today’s victory. As I said before the match, I hoped the team could show the spirit of Chinese women’s football and play confidently. I think they made it.”

Captain Wang Shanshan, who scored the winning spot-kick after firing in a late equaliser in extra-time, said Japan posed a tough challenge. “Indeed, it was a very difficult match and the Japanese team imposed a lot of challenges to us. Especially, they had good ball possession and while passing, they have good techniques in terms of attacking,” she said.

“It was very important to do our best... and I think we made it today.”