WUHAN, China (AFP) - China's World Cup hopes teetered on the brink of disaster Sunday after a 4-0 drubbing by mighty Brazil left the hosts to rue the possibility of an early exit from the tournament.
China must now defeat lowly-ranked New Zealand in Tianjin on Wednesday if they are to move to the knockout stage, and hope Brazil win or draw against Denmark on the same day in Hangzhou.
"We now have to recover, do our best against New Zealand and we have to score a lot of goals," China's Swedish coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors said.
Chinese hopes were riding sky-high after a late goal squeezed them past sixth-ranked Denmark in their opening match and they were confident they could upset Group D favourites Brazil.
But the 11th ranked Steel Roses, who have set themselves a target of reaching the semi-finals, learned the hard way on Saturday that they are no match for the South Americans who have emerged as serious contenders for the title.
"Brazil is a very good side and if you look at the rankings and the players they are better than China, that is for sure," admitted Domanski-Lyfors.
Brazil has participated in all five World Cup's since the tournament was initiated in 1991, and although they have never won the crown, Saturday's goal-fest was an intimidating display of their firepower.
Led by two of the most formidable strikers in women's football, the 2006 player of the year Marta and the physical Cristiane, they shred Chinese hopes with three goals in six minutes.
The onslaught began in the 42nd minute when Marta, 21, ran down a long range pass to gently tap it on the outside of her foot before firing it past charging goalkeeper Han Wenxia for the first goal.
Han's nightmare had only just began though as Cristiane, who scored 12 goals in World Cup qualifying, struck two more in just under two minutes.
Marta then added insult to injury in the 70th minute when she danced around defenders for another, bringing her World Cup tally to four in two games following her team's 5-0 thrashing of New Zealend.
"China couldn't contain Marta with just one defender," Brazil coach Jorge Barcelos said, in a warning to Denmark.
Meanwhile. the Danes' crucial but unconvincing 2-0 win over New Zealand kept their hopes alive.
The victory breathed life into a Scandinavian side distracted by an apparent case of spying when two men with cameras were discovered hiding in a room where they were to hold a tactical meeting ahead of their match against China.
The Danes, whose head coach is serving a two match ban for unsportsmanlike behaviour for an incident in the China game, now lead the Steel Roses in Group D on goal difference.