China – Philippines
12:35 pm UK Time Kick-Off
China are still in with a shot of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia next year but need to win their last three games and have results go their way if they want to grab the qualifying spot currently held by Uzbekistan. The first hurdle in their way is Syria who have really impressed in this qualification and currently sit three points ahead of China.
As a warm-up to playing the Syrians, on their “home” ground in Malaysia (the current civil war going on has made playing in Syria impossible, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years and didn’t know that was happening), China will face the Philippines, who were knocked out of the World Cup Qualifiers in the last stage.
Marcelo Lippi’s tenure as China boss has so far been one of mediocrity. With one win (South Korea), two draws (Qatar and Croatia) and two losses (Iceland and Iran) Lippi needs two wins here to really get the fans behind him. While the results against Croatia and Iceland doesn’t really matter as they were played as part of the 2017 China Cup, where none of the teams fielded their best squads, the results against South Korea, Qatar and Iran do. The loss against Iran was hard to take, while the dropped point against Qatar was unfortunate.
The surprise inclusion in this squad is, once again, Beijing Renhe’s defender Deng Hanwen. The 22-year old made his debut in the largely reserve China side that played in the China Cup, but was also called up for the last squad that faced South Korea and Iran, although he never played. It is unlikely that he will feature against Syria but he might just get some game time here. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see Lippi pick the League One player for his squad again, he must have liked what he saw in the China Cup.
See the full squad at the bottom of this article.
The Filipinos have made steady progress over the past three years under the tutelage of American Thomas Dooley and were perhaps hoping to do a little bit better than 11 points adrift of group winners Uzbekistan and six points behind Kim Jong-un’s North Korea in the second qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup.
The side is captained by former Chelsea youngster Phil Younghusband, while Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge has been dropped from this squad to give some of the players playing at home a chance in goal.
The Filipinos also have one Super League player as Henan Jianye striker Javier Patiño, who qualifies through his Filipina mother, has once again been called up. He has 12 caps and four goals for the Azkals.
A China squad in dire need of some good results will want to do everything in their power to get a good run-in for the Syria match, and while the Filipinos will most likely have their mind set on the AFC Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan a few days away, they will not lay down and be walked over either.
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), Zhao Mingjian (Hebei China Fortune), Deng Hanwen (Beijing Renhe), Gao Zhunyi (Hebei China Fortune), Wang Shenchao (Shanghai SIPG)
Zheng Zhi (Guangzhou Evergrande), Hao Junmin (Shandong Luneng), Yu Hanchao (Guangzhou Evergrande) Huang Bowen (Guangzhou Evergrande), Wu Xi (Jiangsu Suning), Zhang Xizhe (Beijing Guoan), Wang Yongpo (Tianjin Quanjian), Yin Hongbo (Hebei China Fortune), Fan Xiaodong (Changchun Yatai), Chen Zhizhao (Guangzhou R&F),
Gao Lin (Guangzhou Evergrande), Wu Lei (Shanghai SIPG), Zhang Yuning (Vitesse Arnhem), Xiao Zhi (Guangzhou R&F)