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Jia hails China PR's spirit after Olympic epic against Korea Republic

Suzhou: China PR head coach Jia Xiuquan praised his players for the spirit they showed in defeating Korea Republic to claim the final Asian ticket to the Tokyo Olympic women’s football tournament on Tuesday.

In a thrilling, see-sawing second leg, China watched their 2-1 first leg lead evaporate thanks to two Korean goals just before half-time but managed to reach extra-time when Yang Man touched a Wang Shuang free-kick into the net with 20 minutes remaining, before Player of the Match Wang finally broke the deadlock with a 103rd minute strike to make it 4-3 on aggregate.

It was an epic encounter between two desperate teams, with suspended Chinese captain Wu Haiyan's tears of joy indicative of her side's relief as they celebrated in front of 13,500 fans.

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There was relief, too, for head coach Jia, who revealed his happiness at the way his charges had stuck to the task despite falling behind.

"The match was even harder than I expected,” said Jia, who went to the Olympics as a player in the Chinese men’s national team at Seoul 1988.

“I would like to thank all my players for not giving up when we were 0-2 behind. As long as they can carry on the spirit, I believe that our team will become better and better."

"The only thing we could do (at 2-0 down) was to fight bravely. I made some changes at the half-time break. My players were united and executed the plan well.

“My players were under great pressure, and I am very proud of what they did on the pitch. They kept going until the last minute of a two-hour long match.”

While China can look forward to next week’s Olympic group stage draw with great optimism, Korea Republic were left to reflect on a missed opportunity which extended their unwanted record of never having qualified for a women’s Olympic tournament.

Head Colin Bell admitted he expected his side to win the tie but was left disappointed by the space afforded to Wang for the decisive goal.

"If we are gifting that kind of player that opportunity, she's not going to say no,” he declared. “That's very, very disappointing and bitter for us after performing so well for 120 minutes."

Despite the disappointment of missing out on the Games, Bell remains hopeful that his team can become a force while he is at the helm.

"I think we saw glimpses of that this evening,” he said.

“I am very positive about the future, if we can continue and work the way we've been working.”

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