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China´s World Cup fate hangs in balance

18 September 2007 08:40

HANGZHOU, China (AFP) - China are desperate to defeat New Zealand on Wednesday to move into the women's World Cup quarter-finals, and avoid becoming the first host nation ever to be booted from the first-round.

China's chances hang in the balance after a 4-0 drubbing by mighty Brazil left the hosts to rue the possibility of an early exit.

The Steel Roses, ranked 11th in the world, find themselves third in Group D with just one group game left to play, despite early euphoria when they squeezed past European power Denmark 3-2 in their opening match.

With only two nations qualifying from each group, China like their chances of defeating the lowly-ranked Kiwis in Tianjin to jump into second spot.

But their fate also rests with Brazil who top the group and face Denmark, second on goal difference with China, on the same day in Hangzhou.

"Although we've suffered a setback, we still have a chance," China coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors said.

"We have to increase the goal difference against New Zealand while hoping that Brazil are at their best against Denmark and go all out for the win," the Swede said.

Sixth-ranked Denmark are under no illusions about the clash with Brazil, who have been in formidable form. But they are determined to get their World Cup campaign back on track after being marred by controversy.

"We're going to prepare meticulously for this game. Even though we know it's going to be tough to beat Brazil, we'll do the best we can," said Danish coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who, serving a suspension for refusing to shake hands with Domanski-Lyfors after their loss, will watch the game from the stands.

"We're confident we can win, but we don't expect it to be easy. We'll be training hard to make the most of our chances of qualifying," defender Katrine Pedersen added.

The Danes are still quietly seething over an apparent spying incident that has dogged the World Cup.

Coaches were horrified to discover two men, described as Chinese, with cameras hiding behind a two-way mirror ahead of the Danish team's key tactical meeting before their clash with China last Wednesday.

The Danes have vowed to pursue the matter once the tournament is over, even though FIFA remain adamant that the case is closed.

Brazil, meanwhile, have almost certainly secured their quarters spot after thumping New Zealand 5-0 and then humiliating China in an intimidating display of their firepower.

Only a heavy defeat to Denmark would derail their campaign to seek a first ever World Cup title, an unlikely scenario on current form.

Still the Canarinhas, who boast the 2006 player of the year Marta and the physical Cristiane among their ranks, are taking no chances.

"Our only goal is to win the group. We still haven't won anything yet and we still need to improve certain aspects of our play," striker Marta said.

"Brazil came to China to win the title. We have a chance to do that and we're not going to let it pass us by," she added.

New Zealand, who are bottom of the group on zero points, need a minor miracle to advance at the 16-nation tournament.

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