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Pub Talk: Do or die, China NT

It’s all about the Chinese national team this week as Bcheng and Shanghai Ultra look forward to tonight’s big clash between China and Iraq. In this week’s Pub Talk, the pair mull over to the crucial tie and wonder why Camacho appears set to play with only one striker in a game that must be won at all costs. Shandong’s prolific scorer Han Peng seems set to make a welcome return, but there’s plenty of other suggestions as to who should be in the squad – Cao Yunding is touted by Shanghai Ultra as a solution to China’s lack of creativity. Unfortunately, the mood is rather gloomy this week – neither of the virtual drinkers is willing to put money on a China victory. Meanwhile, there’s also time to discuss some Chinese Super League business, as the transfer mill starts to grind into action, and various new head coaches are in the frame to occupy several Chinese Super League club hotseats. 

Bcheng (Beijing Guoan): So where do we want to start this week, Chinese Super League rumors and wrap or the do or die national team match?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): I think we should get down to some serious national team business.

B: Alright, it all comes down to tomorrow night in Doha.

S: Are you going to be hosting a live chat for our readers on ?

B: Erm….I’d like to, but it doesn’t seem like the case, though I love all you people out there, a better offer has come up. I’ll be at a Bifengtang with a group of Guoan supporters hopefully watching China win.

S: That’s sounds reasonable enough. So. Can China do it?

B: If it wasn’t Friday night, it would be a different story…Anyways, simple answer, probably not. What do you think?

S: (Huge intake of breath). I really want to say something upbeat and inspiring about this game. But, the words just aren’t coming out of my mouth.

B: Yeah, its too hard to. I was just talking to a friend and he said that Hao Haidong could probably do a better job at striker over Gao Lin, even at his age. I don’t know if he’s wrong. With Gao starting in a 4-5-1 setup, China’s going to have a hard time scoring.

S: I think after the dissapointment of the last game, Camacho should have shaken things up a bit. But, according to your latest story on , seems the basic game plan is unchanged.

B: Right, if others haven’t seen it, the lineup is expected to be Yang Zhi in goal, a defense of Zhang Linpeng, Li Weifeng, Liu Jianye, and Sun Xiang. Defensive midfielders will be Liu Jian and Zhao Xuri with the other midfielders being Hao Junmin, Zheng Zhi, and Yu Hanchao. Once again, Gao Lin will be the lone striker.Camacho made three changes this time, and Han Peng is going to be on the bench, but I really don’t think he did enough.

S: I don’t see the logic of playing one up front when your midfield is not creative and you absolutely must win.

B: I don’t see the logic of playing one up front when that one is Gao Lin.

S: Han Peng is a much better player than Gao Lin

B: Gao Lin has a horrendous strike rate for the national team, I know he had a good Chinese Super League season, but so did Yang Xu, so did Han Peng.

S: Han Peng is the Chinese Super League’s all time top scorer. End of.

B: Is he?

S: I believe he is as of the end of this season.

B: I’ll take your word for it. Anyways, I think our focus is right, though some will talk about Li Weifeng still in the lineup, or Zhang Linpeng getting a rare start, I’m not concerned with the defense, I just don’t know where the goals will come from.

S: Camacho should call up Cao Yunding immediately. He has more creativity than the entire team put together.

B: Umm….I know you to not be an irrational Shenhua fan (most of the time), but….

S: Honestly, he should be in the national team without delay. He’s vastly under-rated, everyone is talking about Wu Xi this year, but I didn’t really see him do anything special. Cao’s problem is the same as a lot of foreign players – his has the vision to pick out passes which other teammates either don’t expect or aren’t able to anticipate early enough.

B: That was a serious problem with Tao Wei, at Guoan and then in the national team.
That said, I’ve not seen enough of Cao to be impressed, my biggest imression is his petulant and completely unnecessary red card for the Olympic team.

S: That was a complete one-off. I don’t think he’s even been booked for Shenhua this year. Perhaps once?

B: Not sure. I’d think bringing Yang Hao back would be the first step in the right direction. I don’t think throwing Cao into a match like this would be the right move, though hopefully after qualification, no matter what happens, if Camacho is around he’ll start giving some youngsters a chance.

S: Seriously, they need to get Cao in the team. He’s played for the under-23’s as you said, so I imagine he will make it soon enough. But the guy has the best vision in any Chinese player I’ve seen. Last time round, China’s chances mostly came via Feng Renliang’s right boot. Yet to my mind, Cao has had a far better season than Feng, and Wu Xi come to think it, yet Cao is the only one not called up

B: Cao’s a central midfielder, though, that is by far China’s deepest position right now.

S: Yeah but he can play in the advanced position, in the hole as it were.

B: Where, for whatever idiotic reason, Camacho insists on playing Zheng Zhi.

S: I haven’t followed Zheng’s progress. I imagine he’s been performing well if he’s held a place in Guangzhou’s XI.

B: Zheng, at 31, definitely isn’t building for the future. He’s had a decent year at Guangzhou and he is solid in the midfield, but he’s far from a creative player. Deng Zhuoxiang had a mediocre year this season, but he always did a good job under Gao.

S: What’s happened to Zhou Haibin?B: He was a shell of his former self in the Chinese Super League this season, though I think part of it is that Deng plays in the attacking position for Shandong.

S: So to get back to the matter in hand. You are predicting failure for China on Friday evening?

B: It ain’t going to be a high scoring game, that’s for sure. Especially as Iraq’s safe if they get a draw, I see it as a one goal game, if that. I’m not optimistic it will be China who scores that goal.

S: Let’s face it. It’s nothing short of an absolute calamity if China can’t make it out of this group. But that is what is most likely to happen at this point.

B: Agreed. It almost has me wishing they won’t, then for the right thing to be done and major reform be put into place, but I’ve heard myself saying that before and reform failed to come.

S: It’s truely depressing. Iraq, Jordan, Singapore. It really is an easy group compared to the others.

B: We can get into that if, and when, they fail. What are your final thoughts or predictions regarding tomorrow night?

S: Actually you are right. We are being overly fatalistic, there’s still room for China to escape from their self-inflicted predicament yet. My prediction is a 0-0 draw.

B: At which time, we can be fatalistic again. So onto something a little more positive, the Chinese Super League

S: Yes, its almost a relief to have it as a discussion topic. What’s been going on in the immediate week after the season’s end?

B: The big news is that the AFC matches the CFA when it comes to incompetency and it hasn’t been decided if China’s ACL spots for the 2012 competition will be 4 or a 3.5 situation (i.e. where Liaoning will have to qualify for the group stage).

S: That is unfortunate – I thought these matters were decided well in advance.

B: China has fallen out of their 5th ranked spot in Asia (which helped them get their easy group) into number 6 in FIFA’s latest rankings, so that could influence it. Strange that it would influence next year’s competition, a bit of a slap in the face for Liaoning.

S: Should it not be the CFA cup winners who go into the qualification game?

B: Agreed, I’m not sure why it would be Liaoning, but that’s what the articles I’ve seen have said. Not sure if it’s all rampant speculation, but it kind of shocked me.
In another article, there was speculation this may influence Guangzhou’s persuit of Yu Hanchao, where a deal would be reached that Yu would go to Guangzhou after helping Liaoning qualify for the group stage.

S: Yes, and I was shocked and appalled by Guangzhou’s chairman complaing of the foreign player restriction for Chinese Super League clubs.

B: It just means they are going to spend their millions on domestic players instead and they might have to push their time table for winning the ACL back a little.

S: Well, China already has a chronic problem in terms of the alarmingly low number of officially registered players playing at all levels in China, and Guangzhou want to limit this number even further by reducing the number of Chinese players playing in the Chinese Super League, I think it’s disgustingly selfish, the Chinese Super League is already over-reliant on foreign players, bringing more in is not the answer.

B: Everyone out there, note that it’s Shanghai Ultra and not me complaining about Guangzhou. Anyways, I agree with everything you said, but I’m more interested in the silly season talk. What are the rumors around Shanghai? Any coaching news? Who is coming or going?

S: Dunga has aparently been interviewed for the management position. I just hope they are going to invest more in the playing squad, and stop bringing in dud foreigners like Castro.

B: Does that seem likely? Are you optimistic about this?

S: It really depends, aparently the Shanghai government are going to put money into the team, its generally acknowledged that Shanghainese football is at its lowest ever ebb, hardly surprising, the happy ending to this season does not disguise a very poor season for Shenhua. There are a lot of positives, but their still needs to be more investment on the pitch.

B: Well rumors up north are that (part of) Guoan’s investment is likely to be in former Shenhua bad boy Mao Jianqing. There were rumors he would come here during the midseason transfer window, but instead he went to Hangzhou to play under Wu Jingui.

S: Shenhua should never have let him go. He’s scored twice against us since leaving.

B: Maybe he’ll be the magic we need to finally win at Hongkou, or Anhui, wherever you may play, hehe.

S: Ha. Well the second time would be a charm, or something like that. Any other Chinese Super League news to discuss?

B: So far the big transfer news is centered around Guangzhou, not much else going on these days. Cleo will become available, not sure if he wants to stay in the Chinese Super League though. Shandong’s signed a coach, huzzah. Other than that not much, I think the rumors will pick up after the CFA Cup as we slowly move closer to the transfer window opening.

S: Yes. I read Cleo is offski. I think he barely played in the second half of the season. The CFA Cup – will you be tuning in?

B: Yeah, I think so. In the end they picked Hefei as the neutral site to host it, probably a good idea not to play it in Beijing, especially between those two sides.

S: Hefei was a slightly strange choice. I hope they get a good crowd there, I believe the nearest Chinese Super League team to there would be Jiangsu Sainty, but one wonders if locals will be interested or not.

B: The locals are unlikely to turn up. It is a strange choice, but the CFA has used it at least once for a national team match. It definitely won’t be as convenient as Beijing or Shijiazhuang for either set of fans. If they chose Beijing I think they’d get a large crowd, but there would be blood.
It’s an odd choice, it’s not really on the train line for either set of fans, there is only one train from Tianjin to Shijiazhuang.

S: If it were summertime they could have made it in Qingdao, a nice day out at the beach for both sets of fans. Oh…. well maybe not I was in Qingdao recently and the beach was absolutely covered in horrible green shit.

B: Haha, Guoan fans had a decent away trip to Qingdao this year. That wasn’t a name I heard bandied about, but Qinhuangdao, which hosted some of the Olympic games, was an option as was Shijiazhuang. Both would have been very convenient for both sets of fans, without the potential for violence that Beijing had.

S: Indeed. So, we find ourselves back in the Pub after last week suggesting it might be out last visit for a while. Does that make us virtual alcoholics?

B: I’m a creature of habit, what’s a Friday afternoon without the pub? I think I’ll be dropping by a little less after next week where we’ll have the national team and CFA Cup to talk about, but every now and then I’ll still stop in.

S: Right. We don’t want to drink the Pub dry during the off season.

B: Cheers to that, and cheers to China some way somehow getting a result tomorrow!

S: Good luck Chinese NT…. you’ll need it!

B: And good luck to all of us watching it (and our TVs), hope they won’t get damaged in the process.

S: Yes, remember its only a game folks, wouldn’t want to waste good beer money on having to replace a smashed television.

B: Spend it on beer and baijiu, if the result isn’t going our way, get smashed on that.Much cheaper than smashing a tv.

S: Indeed, these plasma screen bad boys ain’t cheap!

B: Good to see stepping up with a public service announcement, really serving our readers! Cheers man, I’m stumbling down the block for some kebabs.

S: Cheers

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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