On Sunday night, China’s win over Australia meant they finished second in the East Asian Cup, a respectable finish for a country that was previously struggling. Here we offer a few thoughts on China’s performance in the competition and what it all means.
The East Asian Cup is a completely pointless competition, along the lines of the Gold Cup, that needs to be done away with. For the second time in a row (at the very least), China was the only one that brought their top side. The competition really serves no purpose but to get the Chinese media overly excited.
Speaking of….the Chinese media and those who are casual observers of the national team have gotten very excited about China’s performance in Korea; don’t do that! China played decently in the three matches, but not overwhelmingly good, especially considering the state of the competition. It’s important to stay on an even keel about this, there are reasons to be hopeful, but don’t get overly so.
Why not be hopeful? Six goals in three matches against mediocre opposition is a big reason why. The defense played so bad in the first game Zheng Zhi was moved back to central defender for almost the first time in 10 years. Zhang Linpeng, previously one of China’s strongest players, was completely mediocre, sometimes worse. China needs to seriously rethink how they play defense.
I’m not trying to be a buzz kill, there are reasons to be excited, the youngsters, namely Sun Ke and Zhang Xizhe, put in excellent performances and should have solidified their position in the national team setup. Sun scored two goals, including a real beauty, while Zhang created opportunities and was all over the pitch.
Yang Zhi is back! Geng Xiaofeng, who struggled as it was, doesn’t deserve to be back in the lineup. In the one match Yang played, he put in a solid performance, especially compared to what Zeng did in the previous two matches. The national team keepers should be Yang, Zeng, and Wang Dalei and it’s a tough decision who should be allowed to start.
With how well Sun and Zhang played, as well as Yang Hao’s performance when on the pitch, the national team manager (be it Fu Bo or Marcello Lippi) has a tough position picking the midfield. These three all deserve to be in the lineup, but competition from Wang Yongpo (who didn’t really stand out in Korea but put in strong performances during the last set of friendlies), Yu Hai, Gao Lin, Huang Bowen, and Wu Lei (the youngster scored a great goal against Australia, but still hasn’t found his footing at the national team level) mean that its going to be tough picking the most deserving four midfielders.
Gao Lin once again struggled as China’s lone striker. It’s hard without the support of some of Asia’s strongest foreign players around him and he may be a better option on the left, or coming off the bench, than up top. Yu Dabao performed admirably in the position, scoring and creating goals, while Yang Xu didn’t get a lot of time, but in the little that he got, he offered a strong argument why he should be in the starting XI.
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