31 August: China – Uzbekistan. 13:00 UK Time Kick-Off
5 September: Qatar – China. 16:00 UK Time Kick-Off
It’s not a good read for Marcelo Lippi’s charges as they sit bottom of Group A in the AFC World Cup Qualification Third Round.
Any chance of qualifying directly went straight out the window when they drew 2-2 with Syria last time around and if China are going to get through to the World Cup now they must do so via the playoff places. In that spot sits today’s opponent Uzbekistan, six points above China, and it doesn’t take much of a mathematician to figure out that with only two games to go it means that China HAVE to win both of the two remaining games.
However, that might not be enough. Because only three points behind Uzbekistan is Syria waiting, ready to pounce. They play China’s next opponent, Qatar, “at home” in Malaysia, before finishing off with a difficult game against already qualified Iran in Tehran. The best outcome for China would be for Syria and Qatar to draw before Iran sees off Syria at home. But all that will be for nought if China can’t beat Uzbekistan, and preferably by some margin as their goal difference is worse than Uzbekistan and if they end up tied that will be what it comes down to.
Marcello Lippi brings in three people who could make their debut for the national team in Beijing fullback Li Lei, Shanghai SIPG’s defender Fu Huan and Changchun Yatai’s midfielder He Chao. If China are out of the qualification by the time the Qatar game rolls around expect these three to get their debuts, if China are still in it, they may not. See the full squad at the bottom of this article.
China – Uzbekistan:
The last match between the two teams ended in a comfortable 2-0 victory to Uzbekistan in Tashkent back in October. As mentioned China need to win this, but it will not be easy. A win for Uzbekistan means that they are almost certain of a spot in the World Cup playoffs at least. A draw or a loss means that they invite Syria back in to the mix if they beat Qatar, or even Qatar themselves. The visitors will also want a win because they still have the chance of qualifying directly as they face South Korea in the final match. The South Koreans sit only one point above them in the table after the shock loss to Qatar last time out. South Korea play already qualified Iran today.
The Uzbekistan squad brings three familiar faces for CSL fans as Shanghai SIPG’s Odil Ahmedov captains the side while Beijing Guoan’s Egor Krimets and Changchun Yatai’s Anzur Ismailov shore up the defence.
Qatar – China:
This match could be the be-all and end-all of China’s World Cup hopes, or it could be a match that means absolutely nothing for either team. Qatar are still in with a shot for the playoff place if everything go their way and they beat Syria today, so in exactly the same position as China. The surprise win against South Korea have instilled the Qatari’s with confidence and hope and if they are still in the running for the playoff spot this match will not be an easy one. The last time these two teams met it ended in a 0-0 draw which neither team will be pleased with this time around.
The Full China Squad:
Zeng Cheng (Guangzhou Evergrande), Wang Dalei (Shandong Luneng), Yan Junling (Shanghai SIPG)
Feng Xiaoting (Guangzhou Evergrande), Zhang Linpeng (Guangzhou Evergrande), Ren Hang (Hebei China Fortune), Jiang Zhipeng (Guangzhou R&F), Deng Hanwen (Beijing Renhe), Gao Zhunyi (Hebei China Fortune), Li Lei (Beijing Guoan), Fu Huan (Shanghai SIPG)
Zheng Zhi (Guangzhou Evergrande), Zhao Xuri (Tianjin Quanjian), Hao Junmin (Shandong Luneng), Yu Hanchao (Guangzhou Evergrande), Zhang Xizhe (Beijing Guoan), Wang Yongpo (Tianjin Quanjian), Yin Hongbo (Hebei China Fortune), He Chao (Changchun Yatai)
Gao Lin (Guangzhou Evergrande), Wu Lei (Shanghai SIPG), Xiao Zhi (Guangzhou R&F)