Population: 1,273,100,000
Area: 9,596,960 km²
Capital: Beijing
Language: Mandarin

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.
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Participations: None
Best placing: None
Topscorer: None

Jun 04 - CHN v CRC  in Gwangju
Jun 08 - CHN v BRA  in Seogwipo
Jun 13 - CHN v TUR  in Seoul

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.

WCA 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.


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 before.

    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 championship.

    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.


    China has never participated in the World Cup before.




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