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China-based players at the World Cup – who’s going and who is not?

China may have yet again failed to qualify for the World Cup, but the Chinese Super League looks set to be represented with a record number of players this summer on football’s biggest stage.

With a little help from some overseas experts, looks at the China based players who have already booked their plane tickets to Brazil, those who narrowly missed out, and those still hopeful of going with final squads for every participating nation yet to be confirmed.


Leon Benko (Dalian Aerbin, Croatia)
Background: 30 years old, Striker, 4 caps since 2006, last cap v Switzerland March 2014

Season so far: Signed from HNK Rijeka, Benko has turned out for Dalian eight times in 2014. He featured for 90 minutes in the first four games and scored against Henan Jianye. Since then Benko has played a rotational role in four of his last seven games but not played a full match.

Expert opinion, Aleksandar Holiga (Twitter @alexholiga): There was pressure on Croatia managers (both Štimac and later Kovač) to call up Benko, as he was the leading goal scorer in the league – not only last season, but also this before he left Rijeka. However, Croatia have at least 5 or 6 forwards who are better than him and also better suited for the team’s needs. He’s no spring chicken and there wouldn’t be much point taking him to Brazil just to sit on the bench, but he was nevertheless called up and tested. I think he wouldn’t have made the final cut anyway, but by leaving for China he effectively eliminated himself from the list of candidates.

Chances: Left out of the squad

Mauricio Castillo (Qingdao Jonoon, Costa Rica)
Background: 26 years old, Midfielder and Forward, 8 caps and 1 goal since 2012, last cap v South Korea January 2014.

Season so far: After suffering painful relegation last term, Qingdao Jonoon were all change and signed Castillo to push for promotion but currently sit 9th, 11 points off the pace in the second tier. Castillo featured in Jonoon’s first three matches all of which were 1-1 draws, a 3-0 win over Wuhan Zall in which he scored but then three losses with no goals scored. Jonoon overturned their fortunes with a 5-0 victory that Castillo sat out and recently featured in a 0-0 draw.

Expert opinion, Andrés Rojas (Twitter @Macho_Rojas10): I think that the chances that Mauricio has are very high. Jorge Luis Pinto likes the way he played when he was at Saprissa in Costa Rica but there are other players that are showing good performances. I think that if the national coach keeps calling the habitual players, Mauricio is going to be at the World Cup.

Chances: None – he was left out of the squad announced May 13th

Osman Chavez
(Qingdao Jonoon, Honduras)
Background: 29 years old, Defender, 52 caps since 2008, last cap v Venezuela March 2014

Season so far: A surprise capture for Qingdao and the only China League One player to confirm his place Chavez and Qingdao sit mid-table in 2014. Qingdao endured a tough relegation and have started life in the second tier with 3 wins, 4 draws and 3 defeats.

Expert opinion, Legion Catracha (Twitter @legioncatracha): People admire him and respect him, even when he was injured the people never questioned Chavez’s presence in the team. He is respected too for always speaking about God even in churches; don’t know how he is doing now in China with that but he did it in Poland!

Chances: Osman is already confirmed as part of the squad.

Ha Dae-Sung (Beijing Guoan, South Korea)
Background: 29 years old, Midfielder, 12 caps since 2008, last cap v Greece March 2014
Season so far: Arriving as part of the South Korean influx in Winter 2014, Ha replaced Egor Krimets as Guoan’s Asian player. With Guoan 2nd in the CSL table, Ha has played only a few full 90 minutes but his contributions have been impressive to Guoan’s 9 CSL victories.

Expert opinion, Kim Dae-Ryung (Twitter @KORFootballNews): Moving to China seems not to have been a good choice for Ha’s World Cup dream. He doesn’t have a lot of experience in the national team and his competitor is Ki Sung-Yueng who has played in England. I don’t expect he will have many chances in the WC but he is useful substitute for Ki.

Chances: Officially named in South Korea squad.

Alessandro Diamanti (Guangzhou Evergrande, Italy)
Background: 30 years old, Forward, 17 caps 1 goal since 2010, last cap v Nigeria November 2013

Season so far: Arguably the biggest CSL signing of 2014 so far, Italian international Diamanti has turned out in all games so far for his new employers. With Evergrande topping the table and going strong in the Asia Champions League, his influence has been impressive even with the comparison’s to the talismanic Dario Conca.

Expert opinion, David Amoyal (Twitter @davidamoyal): A lot depends on Rossi’s health. I definitely think Prandelli is considering him, before Diamanti left for Guangzhou he talked to Prandelli to ensure move to China wouldn’t take him out of running for Brazil. Prandelli promised Diamanti he would still follow his games in China.

Chances: None, left out of the preliminary 30-man squad

Joffre Guerrón (Beijing Guoan, Ecuador)
Background: 29 years old, Winger, 18 caps since 2007, last cap v Bolivia September 2013

Season so far: Guerron had a questionable first season for Guoan but sits second in the league with his side this season. He has played in 11 matches and scored 4 goals for Guoan in their 9 wins and 2 defeats in the CSL.

Expert opinion, Marco Maioli (Twitter @marcomaioli1 and @ecuafooty): It’s highly unlikely that we will see Guerron in Brazil this summer. Rueda has rarely called him up in the last two years for Ecuador. Rueda clearly does not like him and there is shortage of centre-backs and centre-forwards, not of players like Guerron.

Chances: None, left out of the squad

Jang Hyun-Soo (Guangzhou R&F, South Korea)

Background: 22, defender, South Korea, 4 caps since 2013, last cap v Russia November 2013

Season so far: With Guangzhou R&F impressing as they sit confidently near the top of the table, Hyun-Soo has turned out in 4 wins, 4 draws and the single loss to put the Fuli youngster on the South Korean radar.

Expert opinion, Kim Dae-Ryung (Twitter @KORFootballNews): Jang is competing with Hwang Seok-Ho (Hiroshima) but Hwang seems to has superiority over Jang. Sadly, Jang dropped out but he is expected to be selected for next Asian Games. If he and team get a Gold, he will be exempt from military duty.

Chances: None now, he was left out of the squad

Park Jongwoo (Guangzhou R&F, South Korea)
Background: 25 years old, Midfielder, 10 caps since 2012, last cap v Greece March 2014

Season so far: Much like his South Korean team mate, Jongwoo has been impressive only featuring in one defeat to date for Fuli and has turned out in four victories in his eight games at the club.

Expert opinion, Kim Dae-Ryung (Twitter @KORFootballNews): Probably two of three players Park, Han Kook-Young (Kashiwa) and Lee Myung-Joo (Pohang) will go to Brazil. Park Jong-Woo’s situation is better than Ha. Ki Sung-Yueng and Koo Ja-Cheol are creative midfielders but have weakness in their defense ability, so Park Jong-Woo or Han Kook-Young will not have many opportunities in Brazil, Park’s direct competitor is Han Kook-Young.

Chances: Good but may not start games

Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng, Australia)
Background: 24 years old, Defender, 8 caps since 2012, last cap v Ecuador March 2014

Season so far: With some superb performances last season, McGowan was one of the CSL’s stand out players. With the arrival of Cuca in 2014, McGowan missed the start of the season with a niggling injury but found his way back into the squad featuring in 3 wins and 4 defeats with Shandong struggling to challenge Guangzhou Evergrande as predicted.

Expert opinion, Ahmed Yussuf (Twitter @ahmedyussuf10): McGowan is on the plane for sure. His chances are really good because one Holger didn’t try enough of the youngsters and two Austalia have a bit of a shortage of quality centre backs.

Chances: McGowan is in the preliminary squad

Zvjezdan Misimović
(Guizhou Renhe, Bosnia)
Background: 31 years old, Attacking midfielder, 80 caps 26 goals since 2004, last cap v Argentina November 2013

Season so far: Misimovic’s surprise move to Guiyang in 2013 saw him perform confidently with five goals in 24 matches. In 2014 he has missed only one game and scored 3 despite Guizhou’s disappointing league position and poor showing in the ACL.

Expert opinion, Saša Ibrulj (Twitter @sasaibrulj): After Muslimović went to China Safet Sušić commented that this is a step back for him and that he can’t call a player that plays there. But when Misimović moved to China – to the same club -he continued to play him in the team. I can’t see how Misimović could miss the World cup. What more, there is a huge possibility that he will be in the starting XI if not in all three matches, than in one at least.

Chances: High, he is a certainty now and included in the provisional squad

Kim Young-Gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande, South Korea)
Background: 24 years old, Defender, 19 caps 1 goal since 2010, last cap v Greece March 2014

Season so far: Highly rated by Lippi himself, Kim has missed only one game in 2014. He has even scored for Evergrande who sit top of the CSL and easily dismissed Cerezo Osaka to progress in the ACL.

Expert opinion, Kim Dae-Ryung (Twitter @KORFootballNews): Kim Young-Gwon must be included in the squad for the World Cup, he is 100% going to Brazil. I’m sure Kim will be a regular starting centre back with Hong Jeong-Ho. Hwang Seok-Ho and Kwak Tae-Hwi are also good players but Kim has always been a first choice of Hong. Many Korean fans just expect to him to show a good performance in Brazil and move to Europe after the competition.

Chances: Kim has already been named in the squad officially.

Beijing-based Peter Davis has followed Chinese football since 2008 and is a regular contributor to Wild East Football. He can be found on Twitter and Weibo at @peteydavis

Pete is from Sheffield, England and came to China in 2008 initially living in Shenyang where he witnessed his first CSL game, Liaoning Whowin v Chengdu Blades. Pete is a fanatic Sheffield Wednesday fan but has picked up football allegiances from various trips, Galatasary in Turkey, Piacenza in Italy and Muangthong United in Thailand. In early 2009 he moved to Beijing and after a brief time started attending Guoan games regularly. Pete graduated in Journalism in the UK and has written for several educational publications on Chinese education for his day job as well as Chinese football for WEF which he wishes was more developed but avidly follows the Imperial Guards on their quest for CSL supremacy regardless.

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