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GROUP D

China Advances Easily

September 29, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore — The first domino tumbled over with very little trouble, with the slightest of pushes.

You might say everything was so so easy for China on a balmy Sunday night.

First, China advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup without having to do any of the heavy lifting, moving on without taking a single shot or even stepping on the field. Ghana did the hard work, eliminating Australia from contention, winning 2-1, and creating its own bit of history with its first World Cup victory.

The next domino to go was Russia, which had taken a stunning lead in Group D play after winning its first two games. China took control of its destiny early with striker Bai Jie's composed goal off an excellent through ball in the 16th minute on its way to a 1-0 victory against Russia before 19,132.

Perhaps one of the few things not to go China's way was a missed penalty kick in the 21st minute. Sun Wen was pulled down in the box but did not take the kick. Midfielder Liu Ying pushed the penalty kick just wide of the left post.

Still, there seemed to be winners in almost every corner of PGE Park.

Well, at least for those not holding a plastic kangaroo. Australia Coach Adrian Santrac lamented the lost opportunities for his winless team, using several variations of the word "disappointing." His team's lone goal came in the 61st minute with Ghana leading 2-0.

But back to the winners.

China?

The 1999 World Cup runner-ups avoided a potentially difficult quarterfinal test against Germany here Thursday, and will instead face Canada, which finished second in Group C.

Russia?

It showed that its quarterfinal finish in 1999 was no fluke. Russia will play Germany in the other quarterfinal here. And although the quarterfinals present an entirely different challenge for Russia, the Germans are considerably banged-up, receiving the damaging news that Steffi Jones, the veteran defender, will sit out the rest of the tournament, requiring surgery back home to repair a torn ligament in her right knee.

Ghana and star striker Alberta Sackey?

Sackey, who was suspiciously benched without an apparent logical reason for the first 57 minutes of Thursday's loss to Russia, scored twice against Australia and, with any luck, could have had a hat trick.

Her first goal was a well-placed strike from long range, about 23 yards out, as the ball dipped just under the crossbar in the 34th minute. Five minutes later, she showed tenacity, converting her own rebound.

There had been a bit of history on the line, as neither Ghana nor Australia had won a game in a World Cup.

And local organizers?

The atmosphere in Portland was terrific for the Group D finales. Ghana had trained in the area for most of its buildup and had a great deal of local support. China, too, had a large contingent of supporters behind one of the goals, and the fans finally saw a spirited performance after two somewhat lethargic showings in Carson.

Bai, in particular, created nightmares for Russia's defense all evening. She seemed to have an extra step and only the goalkeeping heroics of Alla Volkova stopped her from a finishing with a multigoal performance. Case in point: Volkova made a point-blank save on Bai in the 77th minute and was congratulated by grateful Russian defender Marina Burakova.

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