For months, I’ve had an article on the back burner criticizing Alain Perrin for his management of the national team, but have never been able to pull the trigger.
Odd moves like bringing in over the hill players like Han Peng and leaving out young stars like Zhang Xizhe and Yu Dabao have kept me scratching my head trying to figure out what Perrin was thinking. While the results have, for the most part, been alright, there was always the expectation his squad was being mismanaged and would go to Australia and be back after three matches. Thankfully, shockingly, crazily, or whatever other word you want to use, that isn’t the case and for the first time since 2004, China’s headed out of the group stage.
Perrin’s final roster includes plenty of surprises, but he’s kept the team young and given chances to a lot of up and comers. Veterans Hao Junmin and Zheng Zhi have been brought back into the fold and rewarded the manager for his faith in them, serving as leaders on the pitch. Most of all, there’s a fighting spirit amongst the players that hasn’t been seen since the Gao Hongbo era. Perhaps its because of the lows the team was at going into this tournament and the domestic media (wrongly) talking about China’s “group of death”, but Perrin’s squad didn’t have any pressure going into the tournament and it’s been refreshing to watch.
It’s too early to make broad predictions about China finally turning things around or to get too excited about the future, Arie Haan took China to the finals in 2004 and then failed to do much else, but let’s just sit back and enjoy the next few weeks. With the way China is playing so far, anything is possible, so enjoy while it lasts.
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