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China Rout Sets Up Olympic Rematch With U.S.

.c The Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. (July 4) -- China used speed, scoring and spirit to shut down Norway. Can it do the same to the United States?

The Chinese get their chance in the World Cup final Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., after running past defending champion Norway 5-0 Sunday night.

"The Chinese team has the confidence to play a very good game,'' China coach Ma Yuanen said.

They have a lot more, as Norway coach Per-Mathias Hogmo found out.

"They are very strong defending. They are very strong attacking and (have) very strong individual players with great skills,'' he said.

Two of those players -- Liu Ailing and Sun Wen -- scored twice each. Each scored once in the first 14 minutes, giving China control early on a hot, steamy night.

"Because we scored so quickly, we were able to dictate the way the game was played,'' China goalkeeper Gao Hong said. "We play with a sense of spiritual unity.''

That was enough to win by the biggest margin in World Cup semifinal history and match the largest defeat in Norway soccer history. The loss left the Norwegians out of the final for the first time in the three World Cups.

"We had no possibility to show our best'' because of the early deficit, Norway's Linda Medalen said. "They were so much better than us.''

The championship game will be a rematch of the 1996 Olympic gold medal game won by the United States 2-1. Norway will play in the third-place game against Brazil, a 2-0 loser in Sunday's other semifinal in San Jose, Calif.

The finalists have met three times this year, with China winning twice and the United States once.

"I think that they (the Chinese) will be a favorite in the final,'' Hogmo said.

The Americans will have a tough time if China dominates the ball as it did Sunday. Norway, whose 10-game World Cup winning streak ended, didn't get a shot on goal until the 63rd minute, by Solveig Gulbrandsen. By then, the score was 3-0.

Chinese goalkeeper Gao was rarely tested in the first half when Norway was outshot 11-0. The Norwegians had a 12-9 shooting advantage in the second half.

China closed in often on Norwegian goalie Bente Nordby.

Sun scored in the third minute and Liu connected in the 14th minute. Six minutes into the second half, Liu scored again with a 12-yard left-footed volley after a Norwegian defender tried to clear a corner kick into the box. Fan Yunjie made it 4-0 in the 65th minute.

Sun then tied Sissi of Brazil for the tournament lead with seven goals as she scored on a penalty kick after a defender touched the ball with her hand in the box in the 72nd minute.

"She hasn't thought about that (the scoring lead) at all,'' Sun said through an interpreter. "Her whole outlook has been to play with the team and to win.''

Sunday's game matched the teams who played in the opening game of the first World Cup in China in 1991. The Chinese won that 4-0, but Norway reached the final, losing to the United States 2-1. In 1995, Norway beat Germany 2-0 for the title.

The crowd of 28,986 in 58,868-seat Foxboro Stadium was largely subdued on a hot night. As the game began, the temperature was 87 degrees with a relative humidity of 67 percent.

That didn't bother China, which scored twice before the heat could take its toll.

Liu kicked the ball from about 35 yards, leading Jin Yan into the box. Nordby made a kick save on Jin's 12-yard shot and went to the ground. She got up but was beaten by Sun's left-footer for a 1-0 lead.

China's next goal came off a corner kick. It was knocked down in the box by Monica Knudsen, but went to Liu about 20 yards in front of the goal line. She fired a hard shot past Nordby.

The Chinese, spurred by Zhao Lihong's sprint with the ball down the left wing, continued to attack in the first half and Nordby made several outstanding saves, some at pointblank range, to keep the score 2-0 at halftime.

Then China scored three goals in the first 27 minutes of the second half, assuring its spot in the final.