Football: Norway respect China challenge

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NORWAY, THE holders, booked a semi-final showdown in the women's World Cup against the highly rated Chinese by beating Sweden 3-1 in San Jose, California. China were also in action on Wednesday night, beating Russia 2-0 in their quarter-final match.

"China are the best team in the world right now," the Norwegian coach, Per-Mathias Hogmo, said. "We're just one of the top four, so we want to see how we can do."

Russia - playing in their first World Cup - were forced to defend for virtually the entire 90 minutes while China peppered the Russian goalkeeper, Svetlana Petko, with shots.

The Chinese midfielder Pu Wei, at 18 the youngest player in the team, fell to her knees after scoring her first World Cup goal and her team's opener in the 37th minute. "It wasn't the best shot I've ever had, but I was obviously very excited," Pu said. China scored again 10 minutes into the second half when Jin Yan knocked in the rebound after a shot bounced off the post.

China's coach, Ma Yuanan, said of their semi-final confrontation: "We are not going to lose and go back to Peking. We will fight until the last minute of this tournament."

Neighbours Norway and Sweden, who regularly meet each other, played out a cagey, goalless first half. But Norway broke the stalemate after 51 minutes when the 6ft Ann Kristin Aaones - the tallest woman on the field - leapt to head home a free-kick from Silje Jorgensen.

That goal sparked Norway into action and things soon got worse for the Swedes and their goalkeeper Ulrika Karlsson. Four minutes later she found herself in the wars after a challenge that earned a Norwegian substitute, Solveig Gulbrandsen, a yellow card.

Then, in the 58th minute, Norway's Marianne Pettersen dummied her way past two defenders before lofting a shot over Karlsson and into the top corner of the net. Karlsson's misery was complete in the 72nd minute when she tripped Pettersen in the area and the referee immediately awarded a penalty. Hege Riise netted from the spot.

Sweden gained a consolation goal when Malin Mostrom scored in injury time.