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Gao's youngsters impress, hold Germany in Shanghai

A TIRED and weakened Germany got its Asian Tour got off to a lackluster start when it was held to a 1-1 draw by a young China team in a friendly at Shanghai Stadium last night.

Showing the clear effects of a gruelling season, Germany needed an equalizer from Lukas Podolski to cancel out Hao Junmin's opener and avoid an embarrassing defeat to China, which is 95 places below it in the FIFA rankings.

The Chinese played the brighter football throughout and would have handed Gao Hongbo an impressive victory to start his reign as national team coach if they had shown a little more composure in front of goal.

They took a shock lead after five minutes when midfielder Hao skipped past Middlesbrough's Robert Huth and lashed the ball over Hanover goalkeeper Robert Enke.

"Scoring a goal was not as important as giving our fans confidence," Hao told CCTV. "Our rivals were we played the match with no other thoughts but learning."

Podolski had the visitors back on level terms two minutes later, however, when Bastian Schweinsteiger's through ball caught the Chinese defense flat and left the striker with the simple task of beating goalkeeper Yang Zhi.

Gao had given new caps to two players and left the experienced Zheng Zhi and Zhou Haibin on the bench and when they were brought on in the second half, China dominated the possession even more, although Enke was rarely troubled.

Gao Lin and Zheng were among those who spurned chances to finish off China's neat approach play, while Schweinsteiger should have done better than blast the ball wide when he beat the offside trap with seven minutes remaining.

Today's German and English FA Cup finals robbed Germany coach Joachim Loew of several regulars - including captain Michael Ballack - allowing VfB Stuttgart's Brazil-born striker Cacau and VfL Wolfsburg's Christian Gentner to make their debuts.

Germany plays the United Arab Emirates in the second match of its Asia Tour in Dubai on Tuesday.

In Tokyo, an under-strength Belgium team held Chile to a 1-1 draw in the Kirin Cup yesterday.

Belgium midfielder Kevin Roelandts scored in the 15th minute, with defender Gary Medel equalizing for Chile eight minutes later.

Japan, which beat Chile 4-0 on Wednesday, faces Belgium today in the final game of the tournament.


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