China Team Report
Chinese spirits high in final practice at Rose Bowl
Posted: Friday July 09, 1999 08:42 PM
By Steve Almasy, CNN/SI
PASADENA, Calif. -- The brief rain of the past day gave way to mostly cloudy skies Friday. By the time the Chinese team took to the field it was sunny and quite nice on the Rose Bowl floor.
The favorites to win the Cup went through a short but calculated workout on the eve of the biggest match of the team's history. Coach Ma Yuanan was blowing his whistle constantly as the players got a chance to stretch their legs and do some light drills with the ball.
In contrast to the United States, which spent a large portion of its practice engaged in a non-physical, small-field scrimmage, China spent much of its time broken into groups. Attackers worked on drills that culminated with the ball in the back of the net (the U.S. should hope the Chinese used up all their good shots, for there were many). Defenders spent time preparing for long balls sent cross-field through the air.
All the time the girls remained disciplined yet had their fun when they could. Spirits were obviously high.
"Their confidence comes from the three games against the United States this year," Ma said, and he reminded reporters who had won two of those matches. "They don't feel any pressure. China wants to play a beautiful final in front of the whole world."
Strike forceMa remained diplomatic and extra polite when interviewed by Chinese and U.S. media members after practice. Even when he had an opportunity to boast.
Sun Wen was unknown by most of the soccer world before the Cup began. Now she has bagged seven goals and impressed watchers with her technical game and field awareness. Clearly she is a candidate for the unofficial award of "Best Female Player in the World" that Mia Hamm holds.
Ma would only say that she has a good feel for the game and that she's been a bit inconsistent.
Still he admitted, "She's one of the best."
Under considerationOne of the questions always asked by the media of a coach on the day before a championship matchup: "Do you plan any changes tomorrow?"
Ma would only say that he is still considering his strategy and that China intended to avoid the United States' strengths. Unfortunately a dentist couldn't have even extracted what "strengths" he was referring to in his comment.
"They play at a very high level," he went on to say about the U.S. "Each American player is wonderful and skillful. They find opponents' mistakes."
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