China only one step away from qualifying for Women's World Cup

08:57, May 24, 2010      

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Hosts China are only one step away from booking a FIFA Women's World Cup ticket as they reached the semifinals of the AFC Women's Asian Cup at Chengdu on Sunday.

The AFC women's Asian Cup is held in the soccer-mad city of Chengdu from May 19-30. The top three finishers will qualify for next year's World Cup in Germany.

China, who aim to win back the AFC trophy from holders DPR Korea, beat Australia 1-0 in their Group B last round to make the semifinals. Now they only need a win in the following two matches to qualify for the World Cup next June in Germany.

China were aggressive as they took control of the field and launched frequent attacks, while Australia, who have already qualified for the semifinals on Friday with one match spare, didn't send their strongest squad.

"Although we reached the semifinals, we didn't play well. The players were quite nervous in the field and didn't play to their normal level," said Shang Ruihua, coach of the Chinese team. "We missed a lot of chances after taking the 1-0 lead."

Midfielder Zhang Rui scored the only goal of the hosts as she made a superb shot in the 10th minute on her teammate's fine pass.

The hosts missed the chance to enlarge the lead when Han Duan's low shot was saved by Australia's goalkeeper Lydia Williams, three minutes before Sun Ling's tight-angled shot was rejected by Williams.

China's goalie Zhang Yanru also produced a fine save in the 52nd minute to reject Sarah Walsh's powerful shot.

Australia launched several counter attacks in the end of the match but failed to score.

The hosts now top the Group B rankings after the win. They tied South Korea 0-0 in the their Group B opener on Wednesday, and whitewashed Vietnam 5-0 in the second round on Friday.

China will meet the runners-up of Group A in the semifinals on May 27, either the reigning champions DPR Korea or the fast-improving Japan, which will be decided on Monday. Australia will take on the Group A winner.

The two Asian powerhouses both qualified for the semifinals on Saturday with one match spare.

Although a place in the World Cup is a minimum target for China who have reached the final of the Asian Cup in 10 of the last 11 editions, and they only need a victory to reach it, it will be not easy for the hosts as all the teams are quite strong and eyeing the World Cup ticket.

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