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Pub Talk: The CFA Cup final that never was….

Bcheng finally returns to the pub, after it lay empty last week as the virtual drinkers took care of other more pressing matters. This week, the dynamic duo share their woes after both their sides crashed out of the CFA Cup in midweek, destroying the possibility of a mouth-watering Beijing-Shanghai cup final. They also look back to China’s miserable WC qualifiying defeat at home to Iraq with some regret, questioning both the appointment of Jose Camacho and the wrongness of his tactics. Meanwhile, as ever, the Chinese Super League never remains off the Pub talk agenda for long, and this week it’s no different – the pair discuss the ACL qualification race hotting up, whilst watching Shenzhen and Nanchang battle it out to avoid the drop to the China League. Zhu Jun comes in for yet more abuse, Donadoni is branded a shit manager, and Bcheng boldly predicts Guangzhou won’t retain the title next year, and believes a big star will appear in the north next season. Twice in 2,000 years? Anything is possible in the Chinese Super League!

Bcheng (Beijing Guoan): Not a good night for either of us yesterday, eh?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): No not at all. Shenhua played like dead men walking. Which I imagine some of them are, now that the season is drawing to a close.

B: Guoan played alright, but the dynamics changed severely when they went a man down in the 30th minute.

S: Yeah, both our sides saw red cards last night. Was it a fair call in your game?

B: I’m obviously going to take a different view of it, but I do think it was a bit harsh to call our defender the last man back as there was someone who was even with him.

S: I think I’ll wait for your report and check out the highlights for myself. But I think refs in China seem to be pretty card happy, last night Yu Tao and Jiangjia Jun both send off in really, really dubious circumstances, I don’t suppose you caught the highlights of the Shenhua game?

B: They’d even brought in a Korean referee to take charge of the match last night, he didn’t do a very good job.

S: I’d say he did a pretty shit job, frankly.

B: You’d have to see the call….I mean, it wasn’t completely unfair, just a little…soft. To call him the last man back when they’re still 40+ yards from goal and he has a defender next to him is harsh.

S: That does sound a bit harsh indeed.

B: Anyways, we still had a chance, it came down to penalties, but Xu Liang’s was saved and Martinez shot it over the net. Yang Zhi continued his failure to stop a penalty, and there you have it, Shandong’s in the final.
I have no idea why Xu was allowed to take a penalty, it boggles the mind.

S: Yeah. So much for the Beijing-Shanghai cup final eh?

B: Right…And it appears the final could very well be at Worker’s Stadium, argh!!! The last thing I want to see is either of these sides lift a trophy at Gongti!

S: That’s hard to bear for any Beijing fan. Although surely the Bird’s Nest would be more suitable?

B: One would think, but by Chinese FA’s logic, Worker’s Stadium is far more suitable.

S: Come now Bcheng, I don’t think the words “Chinese FA” and logic belong in the same sentence, do you?

B: Which is exactly why the final will probably be at Worker’s Stadium.
I still can’t get over that Xu Liang was allowed to take a penalty. Well, I can understand why, but I don’t know, I’ve never seen anybody who is so excellent at free kicks, but sucks so horribly at penalties.

S: Penalties are always a lottery in a lot of ways. But some players do seem to succumb to the pressure more than others. So, unfortunately it seems neither of us made it to the pub last week. There’s quite a lot happened over the past fortnight, including a certain unfortunate result for the national side in Shenzhen, any views on that, now the dust has settled?

B: It was classic Chinese football, the moment you allow yourself to have a glimmer of hope, to feel confident, they very quickly crush it. They need to rethink a lot, but most of all the lone striker formation.

S: For the first time I found myself really willing China to score. I think they are unlucky. But I agree on the tactical thing, Gao Lin isn’t really a lone striker type, the only reason he’s scored so many this season is because he has guys like Conca laying them on for him. I can’t understand why Han Peng is out of favour with the Chinese NT. He’s by far China’s best striker, without question.

B: And he’s by far more suitable if you insist on playing a lone striker than Gao Lin is. I’ve never been a fan of Gao, perhaps its because of his Henanese roots or his time at Shenhua, but I don’t think he’s that good. I know a lot of people crapped on Yang Xu, but if you bother to compare their strike rates with the national team, you’ll see very quickly how average Gao has been.

S: Good point about the lone striker. And when you have someone like Feng Renliang, who put in a lot of crosses, albeit not all of them deadly, you really need someone who can nail them, I don’t believe Gao Lin is the man. He would be a good striker if he had someone alongside him who could play.

B: China’s fate is yet to be sealed, but it doesn’t look good, it’s all really depressing. I don’t blame it on Camacho, he was thrown into this situation, but I do think Gao Hongbo would have probably done a better job.

S: I have to agree. I don’t really understand the timing or choice of replacement as regards Gao’s firing.

B: Just bringing this up is depressing me. I would really hope we see some serious changes in the CFA if China fails to advance. Perhaps its finally time to start following FIFA’s rules and separate the government and the CFA, though I could only be dreaming. It would be nice if they do the right thing and dump Wei Di.

S: Yes I agree totally that the CFA should be told by FIFA to separate itself from the government, or be thrown out. Those are the rules, but they clearly are not enforced in China, basically because the government controls everything. So perhaps that is why FIFA turns a blind eye to China in this regard.

B: FIFA’s a pussy, they don’t dare piss off the Chinese government, they get way too much revenue from China to bother following their rules.

S: Couldn’t agee more. So, do you think China will beat Iraq away from home and pull of the other results needed to make it to the final qualification round?

B: It’s not completely hopeless, they haven’t played completely badly, they just haven’t looked all that great, so these things can go either way. What they need to do is get an early goal and gain some confidence, in which case I think they’ll be okay.

S: I have my fingers crossed. So, there’s a big Cantonese elephant in the pub staring us down and waving its trunk at us. Care to buy it a beer?

B: Can we just shoot it?!

S: It’s going to take a heavy duty hunting rifle to take down this real estate-fuelled beast. Do you think Guoan can stop it next season?

B: Yes, they will not repeat as champions, take it to the bank.

S: That’s a fairly bold claim – so far no-one has announced they have gotten extra financial backing from somewhere. Who is going to stop them?

B: Guoan is sure to spend big in the offseason and they could very well be losing 3 or 4 of their foreigners. I would expect Shaanxi, Tianjin, and Hangzhou to splash some cash as well. Maybe even Changchun and Shanghai.
Jamie Pacheco is choosing not to keep Walter Martinez, who has been one of Guoan’s stars this season and provided nearly double digit goals to date, I’m confident there’s a reason why.

S: Well Riascos scored 20 goals for Shenhua last season, now he’s gone. Who says Martinez doesn’t want to go? And do you really think other teams are going to splash out 10 million USD on players? I’m not saying its not going to happen, but so far I haven’t really seen any solid indications yet that the other clubs are going to up their game financially.

B: Word is that he wanted to sign with Guoan, but Guoan didn’t want to offer him a new contract. The rumor is that he could be headed to Qingdao. I don’t see anyone spending $10 million, that’s just stupid money, but it doesn’t take that much to counter Guangzhou, it just takes one or two smart purchases.

S: That is true. But smart purchases are few and far between in the Chinese Super League. Most foreign players, in my opinion, aren’t significantly better than their Chinese team-mates. And if you want players like Conca, who are obviously better than what’s produced domestically in China, you have to pay.

B: But you don’t need a Conca, a player like Guoan’s Darko Matic or Shandong’s Roda Antar is going to be far more important. You can find a Chinese playmaker, what you can’t find is a Chinese midfield hardman or a massive central defender.

S: Or a Chinese striker who can score goals… just look at the Chinese Super League scoring charts. Dominated by foreign strikers.

B: Yeah, there are only two Chinese names in the top 10, but part of that is the fact teams rely too often on foreign attacking players.

S: Agree. So looking forward then, to what is left of the season, and it looks as if the Chinese Super League picture is much clearer in terms of ACL places and who is going down.

B: Yeah, it all looks pretty boring. Shenzhen may still have some fight left in them so it may get interesting, but I can’t see Chengdu jumping up. For the ACL, it’s going to be an exciting battle between Liaoning and Changchun,

S: Shenzhen could still stay up. But, well, one of Nanchang’s games is against Shenhua. So its not looking good.

B: It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, what a disaster if Troussier fails to keep them in the top flight.
And as much as I love Liaoning, I don’t want to see them in the ACL, I can’t see them having a good run of it.

S: Yeah I’m not totally familiar with the Shenhzen squad, as for Troussier, I’m surprised he’s lasted this long, Shenzhen have been in trouble all year. As for the ACL, Liaoning are in pole position, Changchun have the experience in it though.

B: Not that they did very well when they got into it, but I could see them spending some money, I can’t see Liaoning doing so.

S: What about Jiangsu? They must be really disappointed Guoan didn’t make it to the final, that was there only chance of getting in the ACL, if a club in the top 3 won the CFA cup meaning the 4th placed club in the Chinese Super League would get the fourth ACL berth.

B: Definitely, they are the ones who are most hurt by this as their chance was lost last night.
On the subject of Troussier, though, it’s interesting, he could end up leading Shenzhen down, but it seem Aerbin are looking to hire him.

S: Seems strange to lead one team down then get hired as the team who take their place in the Chinese Super League. I’m more curious though to see where Aerbin end up playing, are they not currently playing in some small University football ground in Dalian?

B: I believe so, it is certainly going to be interesting what they do with that, and how the CFA handles the potential derbies. I’m also interested if indeed the CFA Cup final is held in Beijing, how the CFA handles it. You have two groups of fans that don’t like each other in Shandong and Tianjin, then the host cities fans who have no love for either of those sides. If done wrongly, it could really kick off in the capital.

S: That could be interesting to say the least. So it looks as if most of the Chinese Super League issues are going to be decided very soon. On that note, we should let other pub-goers know about my piece on about Guangzhou, its worth a read.

B: Most definitely worth a read! And I’m looking forward to hearing less about mosquitos and more about the rumors that Donadoni may be in charge of Shenhua next year with at least one world class player in the lineup. Is Zhu Jun for real?

S: Lol. Zhu Jun is full of bluster and dogshit as usual. Donadoni – have you seen his record? The man is a complete failure as a manager. Bring back Blazevic! He was a man who had a world class record and was the best coach Shenhua ever had.

B: I guess that answers my question.

S: I don’t know what world class player Zhu Jun is talking about. The reporter who wrote that story probably misheard Zhu Jun’s words, muffled as they always are through the fabric of his underpants.

B: Well, is it time to bring this to an end?

S: I think on that muffled note, yes.

B: Haha, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the pub, though it’s a depressing day, it’s good to be here drowning myself in a pint or three.

S: It is. I ate a plate of Xian noodles for lunch along with five cloves of raw garlic, so stinking the pub out probably wasn’t the best welcome back for you.

B: Nah, I just feel like I’ve gotten into a Beijing taxi while enjoying my beer.

S: Yes, gaseous odors all round…

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.



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