Yet another painful night in “west Asia” for Chinese football fans. The team didn’t play bad, they created chances, but in the end it wasn’t enough. It’s like deja vu all over again, it’s something those who have watched team China over the years have felt far too many times. The side was average, decently average, good enough at times to be dangerous, but never getting past the state of mediocrity.
China was in a state of desperation and Camacho was grasping at straws, making five changes from the side that was beaten by Iraq a month ago. The onus was on China to win, a draw would be enough to keep Iraq safe and in the driver’s seat to advance out of the group stage, so it was no surprise when they sat back and focused on defense for much of the night.
In the first half, China dominated the chances, but had nothing to show for it. At the same time, the defense looked out of step and Iraq had a number of excellent chances on the counter attack. The best chance of the half came from a loose ball in the box, Gao Lin tapped in a pass from Zheng Zhi, unfortunately Zheng was in an offside position and the goal was waved off. Whether there should have been a penalty on that play or not is debatable.
All around, this was not a well played match, there was plenty of diving by both sides and more than once there was laughably embarrassing tumbling displays by both sides. Iraq went on the offensive more in the second half and created a number of solid chances. For China, not at all surprising, their best chance of the match came in the 78th minute from a Hao Junmin free kick from just outside the penalty area. His first free kick toward the near post was right on target, though it hit the cross bar, however an Iraq player moved before the kick and so Hao was able to retake it. His second effort was headed toward the far post, once again taken beautifully, but the keeper just barely got a hand on it to deny China the goal they needed.
Things went from bad to worse for China when just over five minutes later, Younus Mahmood beat China’s offside trap and was away free on the keeper when Zhang Linpeng made a necessary goal saving tackle from behind. Zhang, as the last defender, was immediately given a red card. With no more substitutions left, China couldn’t make the necessary defensive adjustments, and continued to gift Iraq chances, though it seemed no matter how easy the Chinese defense wanted to make it, Iraq didn’t want to score. Mahmood changed that in the 92nd minute when he once again broke free and ripped a shot past Yang Zhi, who played valiently all night.
What is there to say? China didn’t really deserve to lose the match, but they also definitely didn’t deserve to win. With Jordan already having wrapped up their spot for the next round and Iraq only needing a single point out of the next two matches to advance, it seems that all hope is lost for China. As depressing as it is to say this, the focus now moves to the 2018 Asian Cup, with the side not having another important match until the 2015 Asian Cup.
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