ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|China qualified with ease. They won all their games in the
preliminary group and quickly opened up a huge unattainable gap to the other teams in the
Final group B.
here for details
|Best placing: None
|Fan Zhiyi is the most important player of this first team
that China sends to a World Cup. He is the heart of the defence with experience
from British football - now in Scotland with Dundee. He will need to be at his brilliant
best to cope with the big guns in this group.
VERDICT: First round exit
|Coach Bora Milutinovic has taken all his previous four teams
past the group stage, but not this one. China are newbies on the biggest stage and will find
it hard to take points here. The Chinese are expected to have lots of supporters at the games,
but even that won't be enough.
MILUTINOVIC HOPING FOR FIVE IN A ROW
by Mike Gibbons
After years of trying, the nation of over a billion people (a sixth of the total world population) have produced a squad of
players good enough to qualify for the World Cup. Not only that, they qualified with some ease, winning twelve of their
fourteen games and conceding a mere five goals. It has to be said however that the stiffest opposition they have faced thus far
has been the United Arab Emirates. Lying in wait this summer is a whole world that Chinese football has never experienced
Naturally, expectations are very low this summer, just the fact that they are at the world cup is already enough, and more than
they have ever achieved before. They have been drawn in Group C, which pits them against Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica,
and despite the fact that they are considered highly unlikely to advance beyond this group they have sold out all of their games
already, and could have done so many times over. More than anything else, their presence at this World Cup gives them the
platform to sow football deeper into the Chinese culture than it has ever been. Opinions vary on what would rank as a good
world cup for China, mostly ranging from not disgracing themselves to an unlikely victory over Turkey or Costa Rica. Whilst
they are good enough not to be thrashed out of sight this summer, neither are they likely to make any major inroads into the
The current Chinese manager is something of a minor legend in World Cup history, the seemingly irrepressible Bora
Milutinovic, who took over two years ago and guided China through the qualifiers. He has managed four different teams at the
last four World Cups – Mexico in 1986, Costa Rica in 1990, the USA in 1994 and Nigeria in 1998, all of whom he took to
the knockout stages. Should he continue that trend with China, it will arguably be a greater feat than anything he has achieved
previously. Having previously coached two host nations in Mexico and the USA, he knows all about World Cup pressure, yet
this time around he is likely to be under less than he has ever known. No observers really expects anything from China, which
will keep them sheltered from the media limelight, yet it would be unwise to take any team coached by Bora lightly. Scotland
fans will testify to that, having been dumped out of Italia 90 by unfancied Costa Rica.
And so to the first ever generation of Chinese players to play at a World Cup. China has a good team spirit and a settled
squad, many of their players having grown up and played together at various FIFA youth tournaments. Hardly any of their
players are known beyond the boundaries of their own country, and only a handful ply their trade overseas. The most famous
of these, the current darling of the fans and more importantly lynchpin of the defence, is Fan Zhiyi who plays for Dundee in
Scotland. He will have to play above himself at the back to keep China competitive. Playing behind him in goal is the
monstrous frame of Jiang Jin, over two metres tall and a commanding presence.
It is in midfield that many feel China will struggle. Star amongst them is Ma Mingyu, who is back playing in China after failing
to settle in Perugia, although he has since been overshadowed by the emergence of Qi Hong, a revelation in the qualifiers and
the most creative option available to Milutinovic. Li Tie, who plays for the dominant team in China, Dalian Shide, will have his
work cut out as the holding midfield player.
In attack, it would seem that China have far more options. Two of their strikers, Xie Hui and Yang Chen, play in the
Bundesliga, for Aachen and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. Both scored important goals during qualifying, but the main man
up front is now Hao Haidong. One of the best strikers the continent has produced in recent years, he returned from exile after
numerous run-ins with coaches and the football authorities to spearhead the national team once again. Having never left the
domestic league, at 31 this will be his one and only chance to shine on a global stage, assuming he stays out of trouble from
now until June.
China will begin their first ever World Cup against Costa Rica on 4th June. It is just another day at the office for Bora
Milutinovic, but a giant leap for Chinese football.
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
China has never participated in the World Cup before.
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
on who keeps this site available.