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World Cup: Millions of Fans Disappointed after China's Loss to Costa Rica - 2002-06-04

Millions of Chinese are disappointed after China loses its debut game to Costa Rica at the World Cup finals. But fans still hope for better luck in the next match.

More than a 1,000 fans cheer and sing at the start of China's first World Cup football game. They are watching the match on a giant outdoor television screen at the Beijing Workers Stadium.

But after that rousing start, it was all down hill. China failed even to score a goal in its opening match against Costa Rica Tuesday, and lost two to zero.

Fans shrugged off the defeat as they left the stadium.

This high school student, who calls herself Ms. Zhang, says she will not lose hope. She is certain China will beat Brazil in the next game on Saturday. Ms. Zhang says she and all her classmates were given the afternoon off school to watch the match. Many workers in Beijing also took the afternoon off to gather at outdoor screens or bars with television sets.

Mr. Wang, a young trainee at a travel agency, declares he will always be a fan of the Chinese soccer team, no matter how often they lose. He says he does not officially have the afternoon off, but everyone left the office anyway to watch Tuesday's match.

Chinese enthusiasm for the game runs deep after 44 years of failed efforts to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Chinese state media say as many as 700 million Chinese watched the match on television. And up to 40,000 Chinese fans are traveling to South Korea to attend World Cup games.

Security in the Chinese capital was unusually tight. Tuesday's game fell on the anniversary China's violent crack down on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Uniformed and plain-clothes police surrounded crowds gathered in Beijing to watch the World Cup.

Many of the police seemed more interested in the soccer game than in maintaining security.

This plainclothes policeman, who requested anonymity, says he has followed the Chinese team for years. And he is not too disappointed by China's loss to Costa Rica. He says, this is a ball game; not a war. If this were a war, we would win for sure, he says.