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U.S. ties China, heads for semifinal showdown

Mia Hamm could only sit and watch the U.S. women's soccer team tie China and wind up with an unenviable task in the next game.

Hamm, nursing a sprained left ankle, was relegated to carrying a clipboard and watching from her sheltered bench. She saw what should have been the showcase event for Olympic women's soccer in the preliminary round turn into a 0-0 tie between the Americans and China at the Orange Bowl.

Might Hamm have been the difference? Coach Tony DiCicco wondered as well.

"Hard to say," DiCicco said. "Certainly, she's a force when she's out there."

The tie means the United States and Norway, the favorites for the gold medal, meet in a semifinal Sunday. China plays Brazil in the other semifinal.

"We wanted to win our group, so we didn't get totally what we wanted," DiCicco said. "We played well. We played hard. We played with a lot of heart and spirit. We were a bit unlucky not to score, but it's probably a just result."

SWEDEN 3, DENMARK 1: By all appearances, you might have thought midfielder Malin Swedberg had led Sweden into the semifinals.

She waved to some of the 17,224 fans and even scampered into the stands to sign a few autographs, smiling as if Sweden's victory at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando mattered in the standings.

The United States, the gold-medal favorite, and China had wrapped up the top two spots in Group E. Still, national _ and personal _ pride were at stake.

"To beat Denmark is important because we're so close," said Swedberg, who scored two goals. "And we're going to meet them again in August in the European championship "

"It's good to score in the Olympics," said Swedberg, who had three goals in 51 previous international appearances.

"We are disappointed (not to advance)," Swedish coach Bengt Simonsson said. "We played a good game today. We were not that good in the first half, similar to the other games. But when we came out in the second half, I thought we would be the better team."

In contrast to their previous performances in Orlando, both against the United States, Denmark and Sweden abandoned their conservative, defensive styles in favor of frenzied end-to-end play.

Both created numerous opportunities in a scoreless first half and each had five shots. Denmark, which didn't muster a shot against the Americans, had just seven in the tournament.

One chance didn't net a shot, but did force Sweden to replace starting goalkeeper Annelie Nilsson. In the 30th minute, Nilsson leapt for a cross and collided with Denmark forward Lene Madsen. Nilsson sustained cuts above and below her left eye and needed five stitches. Ulrika Karlsson, who didn't play in the Swedes' other two Olympic games, took over in goal.

BRAZIL 1, GERMANY 1: Sissi scored off the right goal post in the 53rd minute as Brazil advanced to the semifinals.

NORWAY 4, JAPAN 0: Marianne Pettersen scored in the 25th and 86th minutes, Linda Medalen got her third of the tournament in the 60th, and substitute Trine Tangeraas got a fluke goal in the 75th as Norway won its group and advanced to the semifinals.

_ Staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.

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