China fight for last World Cup berth, Australia take on champs DPRK

20:55, May 28, 2010      

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AFC Women's Asian Cup hosts China, edged by DPR Korea 1-0 in the semifinal, are re-accumulating strength and vow to crush old foes Japan in the third-place playoff on Sunday for the last World Cup berth in Asia.

Defending champions DPR Korea and the other semifinal victors Australia both qualified for next year's FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany, where they will be joined by the winners of the third-place playoff to be held before Sunday's final.

China will face Japan with both the pressure and support from a large crowd of local fans as the third-place playoff is the hosts' last chance to qualify for the 2011 World Cup.

However, the "Steel Roses" have a poor record against Japan. Their 3-1 win in the semifinal of the 2008 Asian Cup remains their only victory over the old foes in their last seven encounters since 2005.

"Japan have the best techniques of the last four teams," said Shang Ruihua, coach of the Chinese team. "They improved very fast in recent years. They have fast speed and good teamwork, and they are very hard to deal with. But we will do our best."

China lost to DPR Korea 1-0 in the semifinal on Thursday, as the defending champions harvested the unique goal on 108 minutes, 18 minutes into the extra time to reach the final, while East Asian champions Japan were surprisingly edged by Australia 1-0.

"I am satisfied with our players," Shang said. "It is the best game we played here at the Asian Cup. Now we still have chances for the World Cup, and we'll do our best."

Japan showed their strength in the Asian Cup as Thursday's semifinal was the only game they didn't win since the tournament began.

They dominated Group A to reach the semifinal of the Asian Cup for the 13th straight time, whitewashing Myanmar 8-0 in their group opener before romping to a 5-0 win over Thailand, and edging DPR Korea 2-1 with goals from Germany-based strikers Kozue Ando and Yuki Nagasato.

Coach Norio Sasaki believes his side can not only impress in Chengdu but also in Germany next year.

"The Asian Cup is very important for every team, as we would all like to qualify for the World Cup," said Sasaki, head coach since December 2007. "As long as my players perform like they have trained, we will win the match."

"The Australian team had very good team spirit and we could not take advantage of any opportunities or chances that we had," said Sasaki. "Now we concentrate on the next game and we will do our best in that match."

After qualifying for the 2011 World Cup, the only aim for DPR Korea and Australia now is the Asian Cup title. The final will be held on May 30 at the 42,000-capacity Chengdu Sports Center.

DPR Korea coach Kim Kwang-min has no doubt his team will give their all to defend their AFC Women's Asian Cup title after surviving a gruelling encounter with hosts China to win 1-0 after extra-time at Chengdu Sports Center.

Kim feels that the final will be their hardest yet in the tournament, and he knows his players will not let him down.

"Our players have used all their strength in the semifinal so I think the final will be the most difficult for our players, but I believe in my players as they have given everything and used every bit of strength and energy for their country."

DPR Korea, who are gunning for their fourth title in five editions, finished second in Group A after losing 2-1 to Japan on Monday following low-scoring wins over Thailand 3-0 and Myanmar 2-0.

Australia, runners-up of the 2006 Asian Cup in Adelaide as they lost to China narrowly on penalties, are seeking for their first Asian Cup title in Chengdu.

Australia Coach Tom Sermanni are quite optimistic towards Sunday's final after beating Japan 1-0 on Thursday.

"This group of players now feel that they can beat anybody. It was the biggest pressure game that we have had so far in this tournament and was against the team we felt are the best," Sermanni said.

"We go into Sunday's final without any real pressure and a great deal of confidence having beaten Japan." He added.

Source: Xinhua


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