WUHAN, China -- China defeated Denmark 3-2 in its World Cup
opener Wednesday, with substitute Song Xiaoli scoring the winning
goal with less than two minutes left in regulation before a
drum-pounding, singing crowd of more than 50,000.
The victory heightens expectations for host China's upcoming
game against Brazil, which is favored to win Group D. Brazil beat
an overmatched New Zealand 5-0 earlier Wednesday in the other group
Song, who came off bench in the 58th minute, sealed the outcome
with a long, soaring shot that sent Danish players crumpling to the
ground in anguish. The goal came seconds after Denmark had pulled
even on Cathrine Paaske Sorensen's header.
The home crowd of 50,800 cheered and sang tirelessly throughout
the match, accompanied by drums, cymbals and horns. At one end,
fans passed around a giant replica of the Chinese jersey, and it
fluttered from one side of the section to the other.
China struck first in the 30th on a free kick after Bi Yan was
tripped up at the top of the box. Denmark goalkeeper Heidi Johansen
was not able to see Li Jie's shot through the wall and couldn't
react until the ball was in the net.
Bi made it 2-0 in the 50th, firing off a long shot on the run.
But the widening margin distracted the Chinese players, and they
allowed Denmark to answer just one minute later when Anne Dot
Eggers Nielsen drilled in a header off a corner kick.
China was once one of the world's top teams but has slipped to
No. 11. Following four consecutive losses at this year's Algarve
Cup, the "Steel Roses" turned to a foreign coach for the first
time, hiring Marika Domanski-Lyfors from Sweden.
The Danes, ranked No. 6, have beaten China only once, in 2001.