2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship Preview: China

China’s opening match in the EAFF E-1 Championship: Saturday 9th December v South Korea (Kick-off 7am UK Time)

In our preview of the EAFF Championship, we have finally come to China after previewing the other three nations, Japan, South Korea and North Korea. Marcello Lippi could sure use a good result in this competition after a very disappointing World Cup Qualification.

In the first match, which takes place tomorrow morning at 7am UK time (16:30 local time), China plays South Korea. A South Korea without its biggest stars but still a very competent side.

Due to this tournament always falling outside of a FIFA window it has meant that China has been able to call upon their strongest players while South Korea and Japan who have most of their stars playing abroad have not. This has in turn also meant that China has been able to win this tournament twice, in 2005 and 2010, despite easily being the weaker of the three sides.

As we remember China ended the World Cup qualification on a high note with two wins but it was not enough to push themselves into the playoff spots in their group. Since then China have played Serbia and Colombia in two friendlies and lost quite easily, 2-0 and 4-0 respectively.

So not the best run in to the tournament, but China is the only one of the big three teams that has a squad made up of a majority of players who are regularly in the national team squad, which surely is a benefit. There are also many players who could make their international debut with Liu Yiming, He Chao, Yang Liu and Wei Shihao all yet to pull on the red shirt.

Of the players that Marcello Lippi have given a bye due to long club seasons we find Guangzhou Evergrande regulars, Feng Xiaoting, Yu Hanchao and Gao Lin. Beijing playmaker Zhang Xizhe and Shanghai SIPG superstar Wu Lei are also missing from the squad.

Player to watch:

Despite those players absence, there are still more than enough regulars, like Wu Xi, Zhao Xuri, Zhang Linpeng and goalkeeper Wang Dalei. But the player we have chosen to focus on is the man who has been appointed captain for this tournament, Beijing Guoan’s Yu Dabao. The winger/striker missed over half of this season with injury and played only 12 league games for Guoan so he will be keen to show off while leading the line. The 29 year old has turned out 42 times for China since making his debut against Estonia almost seven years ago, on the 18th of December 2010. Despite him often being used as a striker he has only scored 15 goals for China, but he could potentially see this number rise this tournament, depending on whether or not Lippi would like to use him as a striker.

China’s Squad for the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship

Goalkeepers: Yan Junling (Shanghai SIPG), Wang Dalei (Shandong Luneng), Shi Xiaotian (Liaoning Whowin)

Defenders: Zhang Linpeng (Guangzhou Evergrande), Li Xuepeng (Guangzhou Evergrande), Jiang Zhipeng (Guangzhou R&F), Zheng Zheng (Shandong Luneng), Deng Hanwen (Beijing Renhe), Gao Zhunyi (Hebei China Fortune), Fu Huan (Shanghai SIPG), He Guan (Shanghai SIPG), Liu Yiming (Tianjin Quanjian)

Midfielders: Zhao Xuri (Tianjin Quanjian), Zhao Yuhao (Hebei China Fortune), Yin Hongbo (Hebei China Fortune), Zhang Wenzhao (Guangzhou Evergrande), He Chao (Changchun Yatai), Wu Xi (Jiangsu Suning), Zheng Long (Guangzhou Evergrande)

Strikers: Xiao Zhi (Guangzhou R&F), Yang Liyu (Tianjin TEDA), Wei Shihao (Shanghai SIPG), Yu Dabao (Beijing Renhe)