Clinical China shatter hosts' hopes
To the great disappointment of the local support who packed the Torpedo Stadium in Moscow, the Russians failed to book a spot in the semi-finals, going down 4-0 to China PR's Steel Rosebuds, whose ability to punish their opponents on the counter-attack once again proved lethal.
"I'd like to thank my team for playing such a great game," said China's coach Shang Ruihua . "But we were lucky that we managed to get two early goals. They had a positive impact on our game and demoralised the Russian players."
As early as the eighth minute, Ma Xiaoxu and Zi Jingjing found themselves in the Russian half with just two defenders to beat and, betwen them, they successfully conjured the opening goal. Ma played the ball to Zi on the edge of the box, and she took up the gauntlet from there, unleashing a powerful drive into the roof of the net from 13 metres (1-0, 13').
Although the Russians were enjoying more possession, China PR continued to look the more dangerous, and they did not have to wait long to double their lead, with Elvira Todua unable to prevent the tournament's top markswomen taking her tally to five. From a short corner, she shaped as if to cut back and instead headed for the byline, leaving her markers for dead before dispatching an impudent outside-of-the-foot shot past Todua at her near post (2-0, 19').
By way of response, Valentin Grishin's team could only manage a couple of tame long-range efforts from Oksana Titova. Elena Danilova , on her own up front once again, did her best to conjure something up, but the Russians could do nothing to change the course of the game. In the 27th minute, it was only a clearance off the line by Elena Morozova that prevented the Chinese from extending their advantage still further.
As it transpired, Morozova was merely delaying the inevitable. Five minutes before the break, Zi Jingjing's shot from 20 yards struck the post, but Zhang Wei Shuang was first to the rebound and fired home, sending Todua the wrong way (3-0, 40').
Much to the dismay of the local supporters, the Russians emerged for the second half without the injured Danilova.
Nevertheless, they began to play with such energy that it appeared, for a time at least, that all might not be lost. The Chinese had retreated en masse to their own half, handing the initiative to the hosts, who began to threaten Zhang Yanru's goal on a frequent basis.
When Morozova found Kozhnikova unmarked near the penalty spot, a goal looked likely, but though the makeshift striker had found the net in each of her two previous outings, this time she blasted her shot wildly over the crossbar. Next, Elena Terekhova , finding herself in a decent position, could only direct her shot straight at Yanru.
Worse still for the hosts, the Chinese then launched a swift and devastating counter-attack, feeding the ball to a completely unmarked You Jia in the centre, who controlled beautifully on her chest before flicking the ball instinctively past the onrushing Todua (4-0, 60').
Thereafter, the Chinese retreated again, barely re-emerging from their own half, though they also refused to give their opponents a sniff of their goal. Even when the Russians did manage to get a shot in, they found the Steel Rosebuds' keeper Zhang in faultless form.
Russia's most dangerous moment came in the 67th minute when Terekhova found herself one-on-one with Zhang. However, the latter somehow managed to pull off a fingertip save to send the ball out for a corner.
As the hosts bid the tournament farewell, the Steel Rosebuds take their place in the semi finals, where they will meet the winners of the match between USA and Germany.
"I'd like to say thank you to the Chinese team for giving us such a good match. They were the better team today," said Grishin at the post-match press conference. "Our girls gave everything they could today. It was a great effort seeing as many of them were playing with injuries."
Player of the Match: YUE MIN
"She knows how to read the game and marshals her defence very well. She also has a great range of passing. She's an intelligent player who can operate all over the pitch, and she's a top-class marker," Connie Selby (AUS), FIFA Technical Study Group .