It’s pub time once again. We’re a bit late this week, so grab a beer before last orders and join in.
BC: Once again after a long break, we’re back in the pub, happy to finally have some CSL footie to talk about, including a huge top of the table clash, time to get started
SU: Let’s get right in there. How much of a league decider is this game between Shanghai International Port Group and Guangzhou E ?
BC: It’s not the be all, end all in deciding things, but it definitely has a big impact. A win for Shanghai SIPG gives them a four point lead and seriously puts them in the driver’s seat with only a few matches left. I think an SIPG loss is going to be the start of a downslide in which they also drop points next week to Shandong.
SU: I think so, it’s too early for this game to be a deciding factor. Personally though if SIPG win this game, I think the league is most likely theirs. I reckon the result will be a draw though, and that will suit you from a Beijing perspective I think.
BC: Yes, a draw keeps Guoan in the race, an SIPG win, while it won’t end the race, pretty much knocks out Guoan (and probably Shandong). I would be shocked if SIPG can get through the next two matches with complete points and so I think there will still be a title race once all the smoke clears.
SU: Yeah SIPG have rode their luck somewhat, it’s a massive game though there will be sure to be a huge crowd. It’s an exciting title race. for SIPG it’s all about the next two games, I can’t see them getting six points and I think their mentality is a little suspect. They are being smart though by insisting ACL qualification is still their main goal.
BC: Well, in all honesty, I do think that’s the case, no? I think their goal was the ACL this year, however they find themselves top of the table with 6 games left, I think they are a year ahead of schedule and if they ultimately fail, it won’t be that devastating, they are still a very young squad and as long as they can hold onto Wu Lei, I’d expect they’ll contend next year as well.
SU: Sure it is their stated goal. It’s just that they’re choosing to downplay their title chances even although they are top of the league, not something they have to do, but I can see why they are, but of course they must fancy themselves. I heard quite a few Shenhua fans will be in the away end supporting Evergrande tonight. What small-minded rotters!
BC: That’s interesting, while I can understand the dislike for cross-town rivals, a win helps Evergrande on their road to yet another title, which to me has to be worse than seeing SIPG win their first. It’s still such a new rivalry to have that much hatred.
SU: Yeah it is something of an interesting case study. I have to be totally honest, I’ve zero desire to see SIPG win anything, in fact I’d rather see you lot pick up the title. Of course, I’m not fan of Evergrande either, but for the Shenhua fan, this year’s title race, exciting though it is, is really the dictionary definition of “lesser evils” when it comes to favouring a winner. Shandong of course would be the best option for many in blue, but I don’t think anyone would put money on them winning at all.
BC: Shandong’s loss to Henan way back before the break has put their title hopes on ice, 6 points back with 6 to go, it’s not hard to see how they could catch up, but they, like everyone, will have an eye on the happenings in Shanghai, while they should easily take 3 points off Hangzhou.
SU: Shandong have a pretty tricky run in, away to Evergrande and home to SIPG, those are undoubtedly must win games for them. I think everyone will be hoping for a draw in the table-topping game tomorrow, Shandong certainly will be.
BC: Yes, my hope is that those sides are going to cannibalize each other and let Guoan make up the difference against relegation zone sides. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but that’s where we are now, it all comes down to what happens Saturday night in Shanghai, if both sides drop points, Guoan’s deficit could get made up quickly.
SU: It is an exciting championship run in, but with four teams and six games to play, so much could happen really, I’m a bit dizzy from thinking about it. Plus you guys have that game in hand as well which could seriously mess up your chances if you don’t win. So I think things will be a little more clearer this time next week.
BC: Definitely, as SIPG goes through these two table top clashes, the picture will certainly get at a lot clearer, indeed we could have a serious front-runner in 2 weeks time.
BC: At the bottom of the table there’s still a lot to play for as well, but it’s equally headache inducing, this week there isn’t any real six pointers, so we’ll have to see which team fights for its survival.
SU: Yeah the relegation fight is very more ferocious, again I’m struggling to give much insight because it’s so tight. We can say Shenxin are as good as down, but who else?
BC: Shenxin is dead in the water, but it’s hard to say who will go down with them, 7 teams within 4 points of each other, there will be a lot of movement in the next few weeks and I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to who will go down there.
SU: No, me neither. Man, I’d love to talk about it more honestly but again we’re going to need a few rounds yet before teams drop out.
BC: do I think we’re done with the CSL stories, obviously the one to watch is the clash in Shanghai tomorrow night, on another front, there will be an interesting match on the other side of that city on Wednesday night.
SU: Yeah, the best of the CSL action and the discussion to take place over that is yet to come, but we will have a lot more to talk about in the near future. Are you talking about the Shenxin game v R&F?
BC: Ah, my mistake, I thought the first leg of the CFA Cup was midweek, but it isn’t until the end of the month, so let’s scratch that, I’m getting ahead of myself. Well, what we can talk about (briefly) is the national team’s performance in World Cup Qualifying.
SU: Yeah that’s a topic needs covered for sure. I am in two minds about the National team performance against Hong Kong. On one hand, they undoubtedly did not have luck on their side. On the other, I just can’t shake the feeling that China simply should win that game 10 times out of 10.
BC: We can talk about bad luck all we want, but in my mind, the only thing you can really say was bad luck was not getting that very obvious penalty at the end. Granted, it would have felt unfair if Hong Kong lost based on a penalty, but that was dead obvious and its unthinkable the referee missed that.
SU: There’s no doubt in my mind it was a stone wall penalty and a very silly one to give away. The HK defender already waving his hand around in the air trying to draw attention to an alleged infraction when he handled the ball as it flew through the air. I have no explanation for what the referee or his assistants may have been thinking.
BC: Yes, it definitely was a weird one. On the subject of luck, China hit the post 3 times (I’m not counting the clearance that touched the outside of the post), with the best chance being the amazing contortion of Yu Hanchao to one touch a shot from across his body. Hong Kong seriously parked the bus but almost snuck one in when a very bored Wang Dalei barely got a swerving corner over the bar. Hong Kong was obviously up for this one, but there’s really no excuse not taking three points from them and it gives China a much harder run.
SU: I think it would have been pretty shocking if HK had someone grabbed a victory. I think China had something like 40 shots on goal, I’m not really sure what to suggest or say to be honest. The fine performances in the Asian Cup at the start of the year are looking like a flash in the pan. Or more like, they were against teams who were much weaker than they were normally.
BC: And from there we go to the most uninspiring 3-0 win ever as China won but certainly didn’t dominate Maldives the way they should have.
SU: Yes, trust China to turn a 3-0 victory into a source of uninspiration.
BC: It has me thinking that maybe Perrin needs to be replaced soon, the media has certainly turned on him, and it seems some players, Gao Lin especially, may not be happy with the manager.
SU: Again, really hard to know what to say here. I would think the only way forward would be to hire an asbolute top-line coach like Lippi. Perrin was an uninspiring choice, but he bought himself a lot of time with the Asian Cup performance. That time appears to now be running out.
BC: I would say no matter what, they are going to find a better manager if they get past this initial group stage. He didn’t fail in Australia, indeed they surprised many, but he didn’t get them that far past where everyone expected them to be. At the same time, it’s obvious they aren’t playing with the same spirit they had in Australia. They are coming up to the Qatar match which is really make or break for them.
SU: To be fair I think most expected China to struggle to get out of the group stage in Australia although at the end of the day your point is right, quarter finals didn’t amount to an amazing conclusion for China and really at this point in China’s football history that should be a minimum being honest. But I worry that the team simply doesn’t have what it takes. I am not convinced that a top manager could do an awful lot better. It just looks to me that no matter how you shuffle the national team pack, and that’s been reshuffled so many times, the end result is the same no matter how it is stacked up.
BC: There’s plenty who feel that way as well, I mean there aren’t that many standouts in the lineup, there aren’t that many solid choices, and its going to take a very impressive manager, basically Lippi or someone of that level, to really get this team together and motivate them, because I think that’s what they are lacking more than anything.
SU: Yeah I mean, where is the next generation coming from? I just don’t see anyone coming through who we can say “in a few years wait until players x and y have matured”. I think the problem particularly is with attacking players. Wu Lei still has time to develop further, particularly if he manages to get a move aboard, but again I am not confident, in fact, frankly I can’t see him improving much to be star forward for China.
BC: Very true, as an aside, I find it laughable how China hemmed and hawed about changing the venue of the match, ultimately getting their way and then, with so many available venues across China, including keeping the team down south, they flew them almost as far as you can go north/south in China to a stadium whose pitch was torn up and hosting a concert two days after the match.
SU: Yes that was very strange. I wonder what was behind that? Were they hoping the north-east would put their opponents at a disadvantage? A sad day if the national team thought it necessary to do such a thing against the mighty Maldives.
BC: Hard figuring out what motivated that decision, most probably Shenyang had given the most money, but who knows, anyways, it shows how dysfunctional the CFA is.
SU: Was that fixture not meant to be in the Maldives? I think it’s pretty dodgy in general that countries can choose to play away from home, what’s the point in international football if that’s the case?
BC: It was originally meant to be in the Maldives, but the country’s only stadium was not up to par (I guess they were doing rehearsals for the country’s national day celebrations or something odd like that in the venue), so that was the issue. I’m not sure how the rules work, but Maldives originally wanted to switch the home & away matches, but China refused to do so, worried it would lead to a string of away matches. There was talk for awhile it would be played in a neutral venue like Macau, but somehow China was able to get it held on the mainland and were able to decide the venue, giving them 2 home matches.
SU: Seems to me that if you don’t have one football stadium in your whole country which is up to hosting international football, then why try to play international games. Anyway, as you said earlier it’s all about the games against Qatar. Nervy times lie ahead.
BC: Indeed, and on that note, is it time to bring another week’s pub to a close?
SU: I think it is, some excitement lies between now and the next pub session.
BC: Cheers mate, enjoy the weekend.
SU: Cheers B, have a good one.
How was it for you? What’s your thoughts on China’s World Cup qualification prospects? Let us know below.