China vs Serbia preview

China are vying for their first-ever win against Serbia when the two teams meet for an international friendly on Friday.

The match in Guangzhou is only the second time the two sides have faced off against each other, the previous result a Serbian 2-0 victory in 2005.

China go into the match off the back of a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign in which they finished second bottom of their group, ending up behind both Syria and Uzbekistan.

Since President Xi Jinping’s dream for the Chinese football machine to become a world power, there was an inevitable expectation that the most populous nation on the planet would not just strive towards World Cup qualification, but ease through the group.

Football has a tendency though to bite back quite quickly, and very soon realism hit Chinese fans.

In 2015 the country had blown away Bhutan 12-0, without conceding a single goal in the six matches prior to the start of qualification for Russia 2018.

Yet in the first match of the group, when the pressure increased, their long-time rivals South Korea triumphed 3-2, sparking a winless run of four games without scoring.

It was only when China defeated Korea in the reverse fixture 1-0 that the rot stopped, but by then qualifying already looked bleak.

Just four wins in ten games sentenced China to yet another qualifying failure when the footballing hopes, ambitions, and dreams of a nation, looking to find its place in the sporting hemisphere, were so great.

Serbia, on the other hand, have already qualified for Russia next June, securing their place on the plane after their 1-0 home win against Georgia.

When the draw for World Cup qualifying took place in 2015 the Serbian team may have taken a collective gulp, knowing that they would have to face off with the Republic of Ireland, Wales, and Austria.

Yet experience told, with a side donning the names of Aleksandar Kolarov, Dušan Tadić, and Adem Ljajić, ending the group with just one loss, scraping through ahead of the two Home Nation teams.

Qualification looked like a tough test but and as the campaign reached the latter stages the Serbs produced a memorable performance to triumph in Dublin and top the standings.

Yet regardless of placings in the qualifying, both China and Serbia enter the match in ideal form with four wins in their last six.

The match on Friday is one of ten international friendlies, with China’s competitors Japan and South Korea at home to Brazil and Colombia respectively, while Saudi Arabia face a stern test away to Portugal.