China warmed up for their crunch World Cup qualifying clash against Syria next Tuesday with an 8-1 demolition of a disappointing Philippines side. In their only scheduled friendly before the final three rounds of qualification, China manager Marcelo Lippi opted to field an experimental side which overcame some first half jitters to run out comprehensive winners against what proved to be a vastly over-matched opponent. The hosts had no less than seven different goalscorers, with 22-year-old right back Deng Hanwen being the only player to net a brace thanks to two second half stunners.
Ren Hang 3′, Xiao Zhi 26′, Yu Hanchao 44′, Wang Yongpo 54′, Yin Hongbo 56′, Zhang Xizhe 68′, Deng Hanwen 72′, 90′
The game, played out in front of a sparse crowd at Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium, saw Wang Shenchao and goalscorer Xiao Zhi make their international debuts as part of a starting line-up which featured ten changes from the side that lost 1-0 in Iran back in March. The only survivor from that game was left-back Jiang Zhipeng, though six substitutions in the second half meant that the Chinese team had a more familiar look to it by the time the full-time whistle was blown.
Any fears that this new look team would struggle against a Philippines side which has been on the up in recent years appeared to be put to rest in the third minute when Ren Hang headed in Yin Hongbo’s corner to give the hosts a very early lead. However, after weathering a ten minute storm of Chinese attacks, Thomas Dooley’s side started to come back into things and had much of the play both before and after Xiao Zhi doubled the lead with a header 26 minutes into his international career – with Yin once again the provider.
The side which are ranked 126th in the world by FIFA would not be deterred, though, and were rewarded for their efforts seven minutes later when the wet conditions got the better of goalkeeper Wang Dalei, causing him to fumble Iain Ramsey’s shot straight into the path of Misagh Bahadoran. The 30-year-old gratefully fired into the empty net to give the Philippines their first ever goal against China in the sixth meeting between the sides. Any hopes of a fightback were snuffed out a minute before half-time, though, when Yu Hanchao fired home from inside the penalty area to restore the hosts’ two goal lead.
Lippi made four changes at half-time but it was the Philippines, who had also made four alterations by the 46th minute, that looked like a totally different side in the second half. Any fight they had seemed to have been sucked out of them by Yu’s goal and, with an important Asian Cup qualifier against Tajikistan on the horizon next week, they appeared to be going through the motions in the second half as China took them to the sword.
Deng, who had been one of the half-time substitutes, played a perfectly weighted pass for an easy Wang Yongpo goal nine minutes after the interval and China scored their fifth two minutes later when Yin netted his first international goal from close range. Midway through the second half, substitute Zhang Xizhe became the centre of attention when he was fouled to earn a penalty which he subsequently struck straight at goalkeeper Patrick Deyto, only to make amends within a minute through a well taken goal following a Zhang Yuning knockdown.
With the score at 6-1, the last 20 minutes were all about Deng Hanwen who seemed to offer an answer to all those scratching their heads as to why he has been included in Lippi’s recent squads. The Beijing Renhe full-back is the only League One player in this squad and was the only under-23 player to get on the pitch in this game, but he rewarded Lippi’s faith in him in the 72nd minute when he quickly cut inside the right-hand side of the penalty area before firing a rasping left-foot shot across Deyto into the top corner. Then, in the final minute of regular time, while many supporters were no doubt still Baidu-ing his name, the former Hohhot Zhongyou player bamboozled his man with some quick stepovers before placing a firm right-footed shot into the bottom corner from 18-yards out.
The Philippines may have had one foot in Dushanbe by the time Deng switched on the style, but it was certainly a memorable turn from a player who has never played a minute of Super League football and whose defensive qualities remain questionable. Deng no doubt has significant potential moving forward, although the biggest short term winner from this game could be Yin Hongbo who produced two assists and a goal in what was easily the best of his five appearances in a China shirt.
With Xiao Zhi’s goal only going some way towards expunging the memory of a fairly nervy performance and Wang Shenchao looking shaky at centre back in the first half while the Philippines were still actually attacking, Yin is the one fringe player most likely to get a shot against Syria as a consequence of this game.
The Philippines’ second half capitulation and generally woeful defending means that not a great deal can be taken from this match and, at the very least, we will likely see the Guangzhou Evergrande spine of Zeng Cheng, Feng Xiaoting, Zhang Linpeng (if he’s fit) and Zheng Zhi return to the first eleven for the Syria match. But Yin and Deng won’t have done their national team prospects any harm in this game, while the second half wastefulness of big name attackers Wu Lei, Zhang Yuning and Gao Lin means that some involvement from Xiao Zhi and Yu Hanchao shouldn’t be ruled out next Tuesday.