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DATELINE/CHINA

Debut Isn't Easy for Players or Their Fans

June 05, 2002

They thronged. They watched. They groaned.

Millions of Chinese gathered around televisions Tuesday in bars, at home and on sidewalks to see their country's first World Cup appearance--and to lament the 2-0 loss to tiny Costa Rica.

"That stunk. We have no hope," said a store clerk who was in a crowd of 100 people watching a giant-screen television outside a Beijing shopping mall. She would give only her surname, Huang.

"I was just hoping for a draw. I know we're no soccer power," Ceng Jiaxin, a 29-year-old furniture store employee, said after the game. "I had hoped they would look better."

Some were more philosophical. Wang Yihong, a 36-year-old manager at a souvenir factory, said even a poor showing would give the players valuable experience.

"It really isn't easy to play against the world's best," he said. "China's level just isn't high enough."

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Compiled by Jim Barrero

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