First off, I’m like most of you and consider the Olympic competition a complete joke that I could care less about, but at the same time, the under-23 competition is a good sign of what the future generation of Chinese football is like, that being the case, it’s scary.
China takes the competition seriously and a number of players were kept away from their Chinese Super League side’s lineup to take part in Sunday’s first leg at Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium. Some big names who start in the Chinese Super League (Feng Renliang, Deng Zhuoxiang, Li Xuepeng) were allowed to stay with their league sides, but for the most part, it was the top youth players. China faced off against Oman in the first round and most expected the side would go through with ease.
However, it hasn’t been so easy. Miroslav Blazevic had one decent year at Shenhua, getting a team that was thought to be rebuilding to finish in third place and secure an Asian Champions League spot. After that one good season he was appointed head coach of the Olympic team, but his reign hasn’t been a very positive one, especially after the disappointing failure to get out of the group stage at last year’s Asian Games in Guangzhou.
He was already on the hot seat going into the first leg against Oman, but after China suffered an embarassing 1-0 defeat, if he fails to earn a result away at Oman on Thursday, he’s bound to lose his job. If he goes, the side will have used up four managers in five years.
In the home leg, China gave up an early goal in the 4th minute after a scramble in the penalty box and the ball luckily falling to an Oman player. China pushed forward but controlled the run of play, but didn’t really come close to scoring, it was their Middle Eastern opponents that were unlucky not to increase the lead after a long shot bounced off the crossbar.
While I don’t think a lot of fans fully expected the side to qualify for London, most expected the failure would come in the group stages instead of the preliminary rounds. Only a goal down, hopefully the side can right the ship and avoid yet another crushing failure.