Two contrasting results in a week have highlighted the roaring success of China’s female footballers and the dismal failure of their male counterparts. It is a story of heroes and villains. China’s men’s team have not qualified for the World Cup finals for 20 years. Lingering hopes they might squeeze into December’s flagship event in Qatar crumbled last week with a humiliating 3-1 defeat to Vietnam. It was left to the women to salvage some pride. They did not disappoint. The team won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup on Sunday for the first time since 2006. They produced a spirited performance, fighting back from 2-0 down at half-time to beat South Korea. The results sparked much comment on social media with well-deserved plaudits for the women and mockery for the men. This notable achievement by the Steel Roses promises much for the future. But it must be put into perspective. The victory follows a disastrous performance by the team in the Tokyo Olympics last year, which saw a change of head coach. China used to have one of the top women’s teams in the world, but they have slipped down the rankings in the past decade, currently lying in 19th place. While the win for the national team on Sunday is a cause for celebration, the domestic women’s game in China is underfunded and lacks support. The cup victory should provide a launch pad for stronger backing. The men’s game, by contrast, has seen an extraordinary influx of cash and talent. This has eased in recent times amid tightening measures, but the inflated wages and arrival of international stars has not led to an improvement in the performance of the national team. China has launched a drive to boost its footballing prowess. Tens of thousands of schools now specialise in football training. More facilities are being developed. Whether these efforts bear fruit will not be known for years. The women’s game should not be overlooked amid these developments. It is not just that the national team won. Their dramatic comeback against South Korea showed key qualities the men clearly lack. They demonstrated strength of character and team spirit. This should bring rewards not just to the team, but more broadly to the women’s game.