Editor’s Note: We woke up to the news that Iraq defeated Jordan 3-1 and so that last remaining bit of hope that for China has now been crushed and they are officially eliminated from qualifying.
It’s too little too late from China. They finally cruised past a team, finding their scoring shoes, but only after being virtually eliminated from qualifying. China’s hopes remain alive, but only just. China will need to beat Jordan and hope Iraq loses the next two matches to have a shot at going through on goal differential.
Despite the fake grass, China looked the better team and controlled most of the play in the first half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Yu Hai finally broke the stalemate with a goal just before the end of the half after a good give-and-go combination of touch passes. Yu started it by coming off the wing and feeding to Hao Junmin who dished it to Chen Tao at the top of the box who found Yu in space, a rare display of China’s passing prowess.
In the second half, China’s captain Li Weifeng may have been playing in his last game for the national team and so he made sure to make it count by putting the game further out of reach after heading in a Hao corner. Just about halfway through, Huang Bowen acted out away from the ball and push/punched a Singapore player. For his uncharacteristic action, Huang was shown a straight red. China had a 2-0 lead, but now down to 10 men, it looked like the tide may have turned.
However, Zheng Zheng, in his first start for the national team, stepped up and shined. In the 75th minute, the left back made a nice diagonal run across the middle and ripped a shot that was just out of the Singapore keeper’s reach. Less than 10 minutes later, Zheng completed his brace when he found himself on the receiving end of a Hao pass and finished smoothly to give China a 4-0 victory.
The scoreline somewhat flatters China, but it’s good to see Camacho’s charges get back to winning ways after three straight qualification match losses. Exempting Li Weifeng and Zhao Peng (and Yang Zhi, though as a goalie, he’ll probably be part of the national team setup longer than the field players), the rest of the lineup was in the 24-26 age group that will make up the future of the national team. More impressive is that double scorer Zheng, last year’s CFA Young Player of the Year, is only 22. As a fan, you can’t stop yourself from asking “what if” China performed like this in the first Singapore match. This is just one small step in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.
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