Praise for China's Thornless Roses

[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP] Host China's quest for its first Women's World Cup title ended in defeat against Norway in the quarterfinals, reducing the Steel Roses to tears, but they earned new respect for their efforts.

China had a 21-8 edge in shots against Norway but lost, 1-0, Sunday on a defensive error in the first half that allowed Norwegian teenager Isabell Herlovsen to score the game's only goal. The Norwegian win reserved losses of 5-0 and 4-0 to China in 1999 and 1991, respectively.

The loss marked the second straight time the Chinese were upset in the quarterfinals. They fell to Canada, 1-0, four years ago.

This time, though, the Chinese players drew praise from their coach and the media. Considering the national team program began the year in chaos, a quarterfinal finish was considered an accomplishment.

Swede Marika Domanski-Lyfors was named the national team coach in late March and had only months to pull the team together after losing all four games at the Algarve Cup.

"The players should be proud of themselves," said Domanski-Lyfors, the first foreigner to coach the national team. "I hope that they are, because this experience can make them winners in the future. The players played really well, did exactly what we were talking about before the match -- except score goals. Tactically, we neutralized Norway's players."

The Chinese press, often critical of China's national teams and its soccer federation, praised Domanski-Lyfors' girls.

"China bows out with head held high," the China Daily proclaimed.

"Thornless Roses wilt at the brightest moment," the Beijing News said in reference to its territorial domination of the Norwegians.

Domanski-Lyfors said China's play at the Women's World Cup showed it could play with the best teams in the world even if it fell short of her goal of reaching the semifinals.

"I had a goal to get to the semifinals and that is why I have to consider ... if I will continue or not," said Domanski-Lyfors, who is unsure whether she will remain as coach for next year's Olympics in Beijing.

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