WUHAN, China (AFP) - A defensive blunder cost hosts China a place in the women's World Cup semi-finals on Sunday as they lost 1-0 to traditional powerhouse Norway.
Wang Kun's hesitation in the 32nd minute let Isabell Herlovsen nip in behind her to collect the ball in the box and fire it into the roof of the net for the only goal of the game.
The victory lines up a clash for Norway against arch-rivals and defending champions Germany in Tianjin on Wednesday and brings the curtain down on China's renaissance under Swedish coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors.
"The game was very tight and we managed to score because they made a mistake," said Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen. "Sometimes tight games like this are decided on mistakes like that.
"China played like we expected them to," he added. "They had five midfield and just one up front. That showed they had a lot of respect for us."
It was a fast and furious opening with China, driven by a raucous crowd at a packed Wuhan Sports Center Stadium, coming out firing on all cylinders, but nine minutes passed before either side managed a shot on target.
Teenage striker Ma Xiaoxu broke the ice with a left-footed drive from 25 metres that sailed high and wide.
Fellow forward Han Duan was finding space on the left and she forced veteran Norway goalkeeper Bente Nordby into a save three minutes later as China piled on the pressure.
Norway were forced to wait until 18 minutes into the game for a first crack at goal when Marie Knutsen blasted a long-range free-kick into the arms of Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yanru.
China were growing in confidence and Ma let rip again midway through the half, this time with her right foot, but Nordby easily smothered the ball, while Han sent a header skimming past the post.
Zhang Tong also got in on the action with a dipping left foot shot palmed away by the 'keeper as she clattered into the post.
But just as China looked set for a breakthrough, 21-year-old Wang's error handed Norway the lead.
"We played great defensively and they only had one shot on goal," said China's Domanski-Lyfors.
"It was an individual mistake that cost us but these things happen. Norway are one of the most efficient teams in the world and if they get just one chance, they take it."
The tide began to turn in Norway's favour in the second half and Ingvild Stensland rattled the crossbar after 51 minutes with a 30-metre drive.
China had their chances, with Ma lashing wildly over the bar then ruffling the side netting, but Norway, the 1995 world champions, kept their composure to ensure another semi-final appearance.
Domanski-Lyfors, who was hired in March as China's first foreign coach, added that she would consider her future after failing to guide the team to the semis, which was her goal.
"I have to think about whether I will be coach for the Olympics," she said. "It is very important to do that after a championships. Whether I am coach or someone else is coach, I think this team is great. I love this team."
|11||L. Larsen Kaurin|
|Coach: B. Berntsen|
for L. Larsen Kaurin 64'
for S. Gulbrandsen 75'
for I. Herlovsen 90+3'
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