China fell to a disappointing but perhaps expected 2-0 defeat to Serbia in Guangzhou yesterday, as Adem Ljajic and Aleksandar Mitrovic ensured the visitors began their preparation for next summer’s World Cup with a win.
Despite President Xi Jinping’s strong desire for his nation’s football team to become a global force, Chinese football remains well short of even the standard required to qualify for the World Cup, with this loss adding to the misery caused by the country’s failure to progress to Russia from Asia’s qualification process.
China managed just 8 goals in their 10 World Cup qualifiers, an issue that led to them finishing below Syria and even Uzbekistan in their group, and the home side again struggled to put the ball in the net when up against a strong Serbia side. Serbia may not be the best footballing team Europe has to offer, but their qualification for the World Cup as Group D winners was earned due to the power they possess through players such as Aleksandar Kolarov, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Nemanja Matic.
In spite of the fact Serbia managed that first placed finish ahead of the Republic of Ireland and Wales, manager Slavoljub Muslin was sacked at the end of the qualification campaign. Mladen Krstajic was the man in charge of Serbia for this game on a caretaker basis as a result, and the former assistant will no doubt have been pleased with the winning start his players managed.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Adem Ljajic gave Serbia the lead with a goal that was soft from China’s defensive point of view. A cross came into the box and found Southampton’s Dusan Tadic who had far too much space considering he was on the edge of China’s six yard box. Tadic was able to not only chest the ball down and shoot on the half volley, but when that effort was blocked he had another opportunity which ricocheted into the path of Ljajic who could hardly miss.
Serbia looked far less assured at the back in comparison to their attacking threat however, and China did come close to capitalising on that vulnerability on a couple of occasions. Both goalkeepers deserve a fair amount of credit for their second-half displays especially as each nation saw two or three good attempts denied by sharp saves. China’s Yan Junling did especially well to keep out one attempt from Aleksandar Mitrovic, but could do little to stop a later header from the Newcastle forward that wrapped up the game for the visitors.
China were again undone by a ball into the box, but little should be taken away from Serbia given the quality of Andrija Zivkovic’s cross that Mitrovic powered into the floor and past Junling to make it 2-0.
China don’t have long to work on their defensive frailties before their next friendly game, which comes on Tuesday against Colombia. Another dangerous side, Colombia scraped through to the World Cup from a very tight South American qualification group but did also lose yesterday as Tottenham’s Heung Min Son bagged a brace to give South Korea a 2-1 victory.
China will be hoping they can achieve a similar result against James Rodriguez and co. on Tuesday, as they look to sweeten the bad taste of World Cup qualification failure that is lingering around the nation’s football scene.