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GROUP D

CHINA vs. GHANA

September 21, 2003|Paul Gutierrez

at Home Depot Center

8:15 p.m., ESPN2 and Galavision

How they got there: China, ranked fourth in the world, qualified as the original host, though the tournament was moved to the U.S. in May after the SARS outbreak. Ghana, the lowest-ranked team in the group at No. 53, qualified by finishing second at the 2002 African Women's Championships.

Players to watch: China forward Sun Wen, 30, has won just about everything she can -- except for a team title. She will be playing in her fourth World Cup after winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards as most valuable player and leading scorer of the 1999 tournament. Forward Bai Jie gives the Steel Roses a formidable and experienced front line. Ghana forward Alberta Sackey is Africa's player of the year and goalkeeper Memunatu Sulemana is considered the continent's best.

Previous appearances: China is 10-3-3 all-time in the World Cup but has yet to win it, the Steel Roses failing to make the final when they were the hosts in 1991, losing their semifinal and third-place matches in 1995 and dropping the epic final to the U.S. in 1999. Ghana's first World Cup was in 1999, when the Black Queens went 0-2-1.

Quick look: China should walk away with this group, but the Steel Roses must not get caught looking ahead to another potential final with the United States. If Ghana takes a "just happy to be here" approach, the Black Queens will be in for a long and rough night.

-- Paul Gutierrez

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