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China are new faces in women's hockey semis

August 23, 2004 15:18 IST
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China's women's hockey team play their first ever Olympic semi-final on Tuesday but their opponents know they are not nervous new girls to be bullied.

China have been one of the most consistent teams at the Athens Games. They won all four pool matches, let in just two goals -- the least of any team, men's or women's -- and Tang Chunling is joint top scorer with four goals.

The well-disciplined team have come on leaps and bounds since 2000 when they qualified last for the Sydney Olympics. They went on to win the Champions Trophy in 2002 and say they can still do better when they meet Germany in the last four.

"We've met a lot of our goals so far, but we're still not up to the required level in passing and speed," Gao Lihua said.

That is a worrying warning for Germany, who are playing their first semi-final since the 2000 Champions Trophy.

Germany had to qualify for Athens but came in firing on all cylinders against Australia, laying the first stone in the defending champions' failure to make the semi-finals with a 2-1 win.

But after that, Germany notched up two heavy losses before beating Korea 3-2 to squeeze into the last four.

In the other semi-final, Sydney silver medallists Argentina meet the Netherlands, who won bronze at the last two Olympics and were pipped to the world champions' title by Argentina on penalty strokes.

But it will be tough to take revenge as both teams are looking strong across the field with intuitive strikers, speedy midfielders and tight defence.

Argentina, known as "Las Leonas" (The Lionesses), have delighted their fans with flowing field goals but will want to improve their penalty performance, having netted just two of 19.

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