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Coach Confident of Victory over US
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China routed South Africa 12-0 yesterday at the ISF Women's Softball World Championships in Beijing, leaving them full of confidence as they head into their showdown with the mighty USA.

With seven world titles and three Olympic gold medals, USA have always been the team to beat in world softball. They remained dominant at the championships by thrashing New Zealand 15-0 yesterday, their fourth shutout in five matches,

However the 12-0 thrashing of inexperienced South Africa, keeping China unbeaten in the tournament so far, left Head Coach Michael Bastian upbeat about tonight's clash.

"I think our team is at the highest competitive level they have been played at during the last two years," he said.

"We will go out and will battle the best we can."

"This tournament is basically two halves for us," he continued. "The first half was the first five games and now the real big games will start."

Thanks to the uneven schedule, China has not met a real challenge so far. They dominated the games with Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, winning 10-0, 6-0 and 12-0 respectively. Only Italy and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were able to give them trouble, but not enough to stop the home team from winning.

China has only beaten the USA once in major international competitions since 2000. They defeated them 2-0 in the round-of-robin stage at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, but later lost to them 3-0 in the semi-finals. USA went on to win gold.

They also have another painful memory -- losing 3-1 in a tight gold medal match at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

"We are nervous when playing the USA because they are very strong," said China's veteran batter Yu Yanhong.

However, coach Bastian was confident that the pressure would bring the best out of his developing team.

"My job is teach them not to be afraid," he said.

"We are going through the process and are starting to believe in ourselves."

Bastian, a former coach with the US team, was hired by China at the end of 2005 after holding softball clinics in Kunming, Yunnan Province. He had to quit his position at US Softball to take the post.

"I am happy that I changed my life to come here, and I am expecting a whole bunch from the team," he said.

"I am trying to raise the bar every day. I have high expectations."

The coach also hopes his knowledge of the opposition will help his team.

After the USA, China will face another test by playing Canada, whose only loss in the tournament came against the USA. The game is significant because the winner will go straight into a medal round.

"It's important for us to finish first or second in the pool," Bastian said. "We've got ourselves into a good position and we just have to get the job done."

(China Daily September 1, 2006)

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