Disappointment mingled with sleeplessness for millions of Chinese who tuned in to a live broadcast of the women’s soccer final early today--and watched their team lose in overtime.

“It was just luck that the U.S. won like that,” said Jiang Rongguo, 30, who got together with friends in Beijing to watch the match, which began at dawn local time. “I thought China played a better game. We were a little disappointed, but we’re also very proud.”

Although women’s sports barely register a blip on the radar here, the buildup before the match had intensified in the past few days, with one Beijing newspaper reporting that more than 90% of respondents in a survey said they would tune in to the live broadcast in spite of the early hour.

“Better watch our sisters!” the China Sports Daily urged in a front-page article Saturday, and President Jiang Zemin reportedly telephoned the Chinese team to offer encouragement.


“China played very well, and the U.S. played very well,” said restaurant worker Wang Xiaoli, 48. “It was a little sad because everyone thought we’d win, but it was a fair game.”

Added his wife, Yimin: “There’s always next year.”