AFC Asian Cup 2019, Team Preview: China
The Dragons would look to break their indifferent form this year when they start their 2019 campaign against debutants Kyrgystan. After a barren run of four goalless games in 2018, they would be happy after registering a 2-0 victory over Syria and the fact they have been able to find the back of the net in the rest of the three games last year even though the results did not turn out favorably.
China topped their group in 2015 after registering narrow victories over Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Uzbekistan. However, they ran out of steam in the quarter-finalists suffering a 0-2 defeat at the hands of the eventual Champions Australia. They finished in the seventh position with Sun Ke ending with three goals.
Making their debut in 1976, they recorded their best finish taking the runners-up spots in 1984 and 2004. In eleven appearances at the AFC Cup; they have won 20 games of their 51 matches to register a win percentage of 39%. They have drawn their other 13 games and suffered 18 defeats.
The Dragons have played eleven international matches in 2018 and recorded just three victories which came against Syria, Thailand, and Myanmar. The worry for Marcello Lippi is the six games which China had lost and drawn to lower ranked opponents may have severely undermined the confidence of the team ahead of the competition.
Wu Lei holds the distinction of being the leading scorer for his club Shanghai SIPG with 151 goals from 296 appearances. Having scored 13 goals in 51 appearances for his country, he would look to replicate his club form during his second appearance at the Asian Championship.
Experienced forward Gao Lin with 104 appearances for his nation has scored on 21 occasions. Playing for Guangzhou Evergrande, he has scored 92 goals for the club and known by his nickname “Gaolinsmann.“
Monday, 07 January 2019: China (76) vs Kyrgyzstan (91) - Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 16:30 IST.
Friday, 11 January 2019: China (76) vs Philippines (116) - Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi at 19:00 IST.
Wednesday, 16 January 2019: China (76) vs South Korea (53) - Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi at 19:00 IST.
China would face a challenging battle against Kyrgyzstan with Lippi‘s worry being the inability of the team to strike the back of the net. If they find the radar, the Chinese will become an unstoppable entity in the tournament.
China recorded an 8-1 thumping of the Philippines in a friendly encounter in 2017 and faces no hassles in overcoming the South East nation. China should derive inspiration from their 2017 performance against the Koreans when they managed a slender 1-0 victory and followed it up with a 2-2 draw.
If they head the group, they either face Bahrain/India/Palestine/Oman. If they finish in the second position, they may play against India/Bahrain.
Average Age: 29 years.
International Caps: 865.
International Goals: 103.
Head Coach: Marcello Lippi (Italy).
Goalkeepers: Yan Junling (Shanghai SIPG), Guo Quanbo (Beijing Guoan), Wang Dalei (Shandong Luneng).
Defenders: Liu Yiming (Tianjin Quanjian), Yu Yang (Beijing Guoan), Shi Ke (Shanghai SIPG), Zhang Linpeng (Guangzhou Evergrande), Feng Xiaoting (Guangzhou Evergrande), Zhang Chengdong (Hebei China), Liu Yang (Shandong Luneng).
Midfielders: Zhao Xuri (Tianjin Quanjian), Zheng Zhi (captain) (Guangzhou Evergrande), Hao Junmin (Shandong Luneng), Chi Zhongguo (Beijing Guoan), Wu Xi (Jiangsu Suning), Jin Jingdao (Shandong Luneng), Yu Hanchao (Guangzhou Evergrande), Piao Cheng (Beijing Guoan).
Strikers: Wu Lei (Shanghai SIPG), Xiao Zhi (Guangzhou R&F), Wei Shihao (Beijing Guoan), Gao Lin (Guangzhou Evergrande), Yu Dabao (Beijing Guoan).