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Canada Stuns China and Itself

Winners are too tired or shocked to really celebrate after upsetting fourth-ranked team, 1-0.

October 03, 2003|Randy Harvey | Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. — The left-footed pass from Canadian midfielder Diana Matheson went deep into the penalty area in front of China's goal. Charmaine Hooper leaped high into the air, her back to the goal, and headed the ball. It sailed over the outstretched hands of Chinese goalkeeper Han Wenxia and into the net.

Less than seven minutes into the game Thursday night at PGE Park, Canada led. The Chinese were stunned. The Canadians seemed more stunned.

But they held on desperately for 83 more minutes before their unlikely lead turned into an even more unlikely 1-0 victory, the biggest surprise of the Women's World Cup as the Canadians, ranked 12th in the world, upset the fourth-ranked Chinese.

The Canadians seemed too tired, or maybe too shocked, to celebrate afterward with more than hugs, unlike the many raucous Canadian fans among the crowd of 20,021.

Canada, which had never won a game in the World Cup before this year, much less a quarterfinal game, now advances to the semifinals at PGE Park on Sunday night against Sweden.

"Four years ago, I would never have imagined this," said Canadian Coach Even Pellerud, who credited the victory to hard work and "a passion to win."

For the Chinese, the loss ended a traumatic year. It was their most disappointing World Cup since the first one in 1991, when they lost in the quarterfinals at home. They advanced to the semifinals in 1995 and the final in 1999 and seemed confident that they would finally win the championship this year, again scheduled to play at home.

But the SARS epidemic caused FIFA, the international soccer federation, to move the tournament to the U.S. The Chinese, who were forced to move their training camp to a less infected area, never seemed to regain their balance.

Their coach, Ma Liangxing, acknowledged that the Chinese weren't the same team they were in 1999, but he said that they would become stronger as the tournament progressed because of the experience that new players were gaining.

As the Chinese struggled to win Group D with two wins and a tie, it became increasingly doubtful that they would be in Carson on Oct. 12 for the anticipated championship rematch against the United States. The U.S. won four years ago at the Rose Bowl, 5-4, on penalty kicks.

China had its chances against Canada, the best one coming in the eighth minute, one minute after Hooper had scored when Sun Wen's free kick from 24 yards hit the crossbar and bounced harmlessly away.

The Chinese are known as the Steel Roses, but it was the Canadians who were steely.

That was particularly true of the tightly packed defense, led by Hooper. She is a converted forward, who obviously still knows how to score, and her determined play while holding her teammates together made her goal all the more memorable.

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