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                  China Daily

                  News> Sports> Content
                  Thursday, February 13, 2020, 12:41
                  Veteran footballer Ma Jun gives it all for Olympic dream
                  By Xinhua
                  Thursday, February 13, 2020, 12:41 By Xinhua

                  In this Dec 8, 2017 photo, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea midfielder Kim Rhyong Hwa (left) and China's defender Ma Jun (right #8) fight for the ball during their women's football match between the DPRK and China at the EAFF E-1 football championship in Chiba. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)

                  SYDNEY - Ma Jun of the Chinese women's football team said she has been motivated by her Olympic dream in an exclusive interview with Xinhua. 

                  China has secured a berth in the playoffs after two commanding victories and their last group match against hosts Australia will decide the top place in the group

                  The 30-year-old has played as a striker and a defender in her national team career. Now she is assuming the midfielder role as the "Steel Roses" fight for a ticket to Tokyo 2020 in the Asian Olympic football qualification in Sydney, Australia.

                  "The dream to play at the Olympic Games is what motives me all the way," she said after Tuesday's training session.

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                  China has secured a berth in the playoffs after two commanding victories - 6-1 over Thailand and 5-0 over Chinese Taipei - and their last group match against hosts Australia on Thursday will decide the top place in the group. Two winners of the playoffs will be qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

                  "After the first two matches, we are confident and Australia is not impossible to beat," Ma said. "As long as we play with good defense and effective counterattacks, I believe we stand a chance."

                  In both matches, Team China had performed well in the first half but was troubled by turnovers in the second. Ma disclosed that the players were fighting against all the odds to recover their top form.

                  "We are not in good physical conditions as we were during the winter training. We had systematic training plans back then but the plan was interrupted by the quarantine," she said.

                  The Chinese side was put in quarantine for 10-days inside the hotel due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and some of the regular starters, including striker Wang Shuang, did not come to Australia.

                  READ MORE: China's women footballers prepare for Olympic qualifiers in isolation

                  Despite the difficulties, Ma, who had represented China at the 2015 World Cup, vowed to give it all for China to get past the playoffs and win qualification to Tokyo.

                  "One has to have a dream to push oneself forward from time to time and for me, that dream is playing at the Olympics. It's a dream that is yet to be realized so I strongly hope we can make it this time," Ma said.

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