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EDMONTON, Canada (Reuters) - China coach Chang Wei Wei hailed his team as "warriors" after a hard-earned 1-0 win over Cameroon on Saturday took them into the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup.
"Today all the players were wonderful," said assistant coach Chang, who was in charge of the team for the game due to the suspension of head coach Hao Wei.
"They put on a spectacular performance, they were resilient and brave. They were like warriors for 90 minutes."
A series of wasted opportunities meant that the Chinese had to battle until the end to make sure of the win and Chang conceded his team had to be sharper in front of goal. "All the players worked very hard - defense is team-work, it is about the work of 11 players, but there is room for improvement in attack," he said.
China, runners-up in 1999, reached the last eight in 2007 but did not qualify for the finals four years ago in Germany and Chang said Hao deserved credit for bringing the team back to the elite of the women's game.
"Under coach Hao we have witnessed tremendous progress of the national team - he selected a lot of young, energetic and enterprising young players, becoming more mature and sophisticated players," he added.
"I think they can reach even higher levels."
China will face the winners of Monday's game between the United States and Colombia and player of the match Ren Guixin said the team would now play with more freedom now the pressure of reaching their goal of the last eight had gone.
"We are in the top eight now, we have a huge burden lifted off our shoulder - we believe in ourselves and we will be even more aggressive in our next match," she said.
Cameroon head coach Enow Ngachu said that if China does face the United States, they could pull off a surprise against one of the tournament's favorites. "The Chinese showed experience to beat us but they can also create surprises in the future," he said.
"They defend very well and looking at the way they defend I think they have chances to beat the United States."
Editing by Greg Stutchbury