ASIAN CUP QUALIFYING GROUP C
Younis Mahmood 22, 42
Adi Adnan 58
Zhang Xizhe (pk) 73
Despite an embarrassing 3-1 defeat against Iraq, China will take part in next year’s Asian Cup thanks to qualifying as the best third place team. Even though China started the match with a six goal advantage over Lebanon that quickly disappeared as China was down 3-0 while Lebanon was up 5-1. In the end, China and Thailand scored within minutes of each other, punching China’s ticket to Australia.
China struggled early putting together their attack and defensively their offside trap didn’t really work, forcing Yang Zhi to charge out and prevent threatening Iraqi attacks. However, longtime China nemesis Younis Mahmood was able to break the trap in the 22nd minute (though it looked like he was probably offside) and slid one past Yang to put the Iraqis up.
While the goal woke China up and they started moving forward more through Yu Hanchao and Wang Yongpo, they never were able to put anything together and Iraq added one more just before the half. A cross came in from the right and more ball watching meant an Iraqi had a point blank shot on Yang, who made a great save, though Younis was wide open and knocked home the rebound for his brace.
Iraq added a third through Ali Adnan on the other side of the half once again thanks to shambolic Chinese defending. Things were looking dark for China, but just after the hour mark Wang Yongpo and the all but invisible Gao Lin were taken off for Wu Lei and Sun Ke, alongside Zhang Xizhe who was brought on 10 minutes earlier, the trio woke up China’s dormant offense.
China started pushing forward and, desperate for a goal, Wu went down in the box and was carded for simulation. It would pay off for China in the end, though, because in the 72nd minute when Yu Hanchao went down in the box after the softest of touches, a penalty kick was given. Zhang Xizhe stepped up and put it just beyond the keeper’s reach.
Combined with a late Thai goal, Zhang’s goal was enough to put China one ahead of Lebanon on goal differential, saving China from not participating in the Asian Cup for the first time since they started participating.
There are certainly plenty of questions (why was new manager Alain Perrin named less than a week before the match? What happened to Gao Lin, Feng Xiaoting and a number of other Chinese starters? Why weren’t Wu Lei and Zhang Xizhe in the starting lineup?), but for one night Chinese fans should just let out a sigh of relief and go to bed, the next days and months offer plenty of time to analyze yet another Chinese footballing disaster which could have been much worse.
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