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China striker Han Duan breaks goal drought
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10:13, August 08, 2008

TIANJIN: Better late than never.

That's the best way to describe striker Han Duan's timely goal in China's 2-1 defeat of Sweden in the women's Olympic soccer tournament on Wednesday.

The ace striker and leading scorer for her country during warm-ups and friendlies had the embarrassing record of never finding the net at Olympic or World Cup tournaments.

She finally ended the jinx on Wednesday during China's opening Olympic match at the Tianjin Olympic stadium, where she notched up a winner in the second half to secure a precious three points in the group stage.

Her effort and contribution drew praise from both head coach and teammates.

"Han is one of the world's best strikers and it is my honor to partner with her on the frontline," Xu Yuan, another major striker of the Chinese team, said after the match.

"We are of different styles and will support each other as forwards."

Han had long been considered one of China's best players, but questions lingered over her ability on the biggest stage.

Her decisive strike in China's opening Olympic match proved her doubters wrong.

But Han preferred to praise her partner on the front line than accepting any accolades.

"If I was asked to comment on Xu, I would give the same answer as Xu did. We are the best partners. We should thank heaven to reward our hard efforts," Han said.

Head coach Shang Ruihua could not hide his excitement after the tough match and concurred with Han on the team effort.

"If I am required to show my gratitude, I, first of all, must appreciate the hard efforts from the two strikers," the 64-year-old veteran coach said.

Shang stressed that success for his side depended on teamwork and that victory was impossible without solid defense and a stable performance from the goalkeeper.

"It is such a wonderful night and I must appreciate all of our players for overcoming such a strong opponent," the coach said.

Sweden has fielded a strong team ever since women's soccer became an internationally recognized event.

Scandinavians are stronger than Chinese in terms of skills and strategy, and Chinese women footballers have to improve to go as far as possible at the Beijing Olympics, Shang admitted.

Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby admitted his team made some mistakes but maintained that Sweden played better.

In other Group E action earlier on Wednesday, Canada overcame Argentina with a 2-1 win.

China will take on Canada in its second match of Group E tomorrow while Sweden will face underdog Argentina.

Source:China Daily

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