2002 FIFA World Cup"
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2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan"
China cap historic year with FIFA World Cup" place
Chinese take to streets to celebrate

By Adrian Warner
© Reuters Limited

Chinese players and officials celebrate with national team coach Bora Milutinovic (C, waving right hand) after China's 1-0 victory in Shenyang October 7, 2001.
REUTERS/China Photo
China, the world's most populous nation, capped the most significant year in its sporting history on Sunday when the national soccer team reached the FIFA World Cup" finals for the first time.

Three months after China won the right to stage their first Olympics in 2008, a 1-0 defeat of Oman in an Asian qualifier in the industrial city of Shenyang set off wild celebrations.

Hundreds of thousands of Beijing citizens swarmed to Tiananmen Square to celebrate in a burst of patriotic fervour similar to that in July when the International Olympic Committee voted to hand the Olympics to the Chinese capital.

Chinese soccer fans celebrate after China beat Oman in Shenyang October 7. China won the match 1-0 to make history to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since they first joined FIFA 70 years ago.
REUTERS/China Photo
The result, together with the qualification of the United States after a 2-1 defeat of Jamaica, provided a huge boost to the commercial viability of the finals in Japan and South Korea.

A country of 1.2 billion people, one sixth of the world's population, will now turn on their television sets to watch the national team playing the world's most popular sport.

With Russia joining England, Italy, Croatia, Portugal and Denmark in the finals after qualifying games on Saturday, the event has guaranteed interest among billions of people from Beijing to Boston and Moscow to Milan.

Chinese national team coach Bora Milutinovic speaks during a news conference after China's 1-0 victory over Oman. Milutinovic has become the first coach to have brought five different teams into the finals after China reached the finals for the first time. REUTERS/China Photo
Anervous Chinese display and cold drizzle did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of 60,000 fans who packed the stadium in Shenyang, many sporting red headbands and painted faces, and banging drums.

The single goal in the 37th minute by midfielder Yu Genwei, replacing the suspended Qi Hong, was enough to break a World Cup jinx going all the way back to 1957, when China first entered the premier soccer competition.

China have now secured top spot in Asian Zone group B with two games to spare, which means automatic qualification.


Football Calendar
Efforts to achieve a standardised international football calendar have led to the official adoption of a schedule for the years 2002 to 2004.
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