While World Cup 2014 may seem like a long ways away, qualifying for the competition starts up soon. Next month, China will start its bid for the tournament, facing off against the Laos-Cambodia playoff winner, and so it took this last chance to prepare by facing two of the better Asian sides. Manager Gao Hongbo needed to redeem himself after the side failed to make it out of the opening round at the Asian Cup and while these matches had little meaning, China’s two victories were good results that should help rebuild the side’s confidence.
On Saturday, the team faced off against an almost full Uzbekistan squad, a team that embarassed them a few months ago at the Asian Cup. China brought back a number of older players in the squad, including former captain Zheng Zhi, and the veterans made an impact. Zheng hooked up with his Guangzhou teammate Gao Lin for the match’s only goal, coming in the 2nd half shortly after Gao came on the pitch. Yu Hai’s performance on the wing was particularly of note, while Feng, who was given 90 minutes to show his skill, failed to impress (something that would continue in his substitute performance against North Korea).
Last night, the national team traveled the short distance from Kunming to Guiyang to face North Korea in front of a packed house. The Korean side looked very different from the side at the Asian Cup and made three 1st half substitutions, including two in the first half hour. China dominated the chances, but couldn’t score until the last 10 minutes of the half. Yu Hai had another great game, but this time around Gao Lin was (amazingly!) the man this time around, setting up Deng Zhuoxiang with a nice pass on the first goal and then finishing off a beautiful cross from Yu with a nice header. In the 2nd half, the defense looked weaker, with North Korea taking control more and more and a massive goaltending error that almost gifted the “Fighting Kim’s” a goal, however China held them off. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much action in the 2nd half, so much so that the fans attention was focused on a player who wasn’t even on the field (Guiyang native Wang Song).
A good pair of friendlies for the Dragon team, while qualifying is serious stuff, the team’s first round opponent should be a cake walk, so Gao has more time to perfect his squad. And with that, it’s time to turn our attention back to the Chinese Super League for the next month.
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