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China eye second FIFA World Cup appearance in history

Shenzhen, Nov 13 (IANS) China’s men’s national football team has begun its 13th quest for the World Cup, targeting a spot in the 2026 tournament to be held in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The Chinese team has gathered in the southern city of Shenzhen for its final training camp before their upcoming match against Thailand away in the Asian qualifiers on Thursday, reports Xinhua.

In an interview with Xinhua, head coach Aleksandar Jankovic expressed his confidence in leading the team to qualify for its only second World Cup, with the first in 2002.

“I feel even more confident because I met all these magnificent people in the team, players and around the team, also all the people around are highly motivated and very competent and fast thinking and fast working guys. So we are all pushing in the same direction, which is very, very important. We have players who are ready to sacrifice themselves for the team,” Jankovic said.

Appointed as China’s head coach in February, Jankovic has guided the team to three wins, two draws, and three defeats in warmup matches. The 51-year-old Serbian noted that his team has been fully prepared through these matches.

“We played against many different football cultures, and many different ways of playing, so we opened all the options, tactical options that we will need in these qualifiers. We are ready for everything,” he said.

Jankovic has selected a 24-man squad including Wu Lei, Wu Xi, and Wei Shihao ahead of the qualifiers. The Serbian revealed that constant intensity is the most important quality for a player in his side.

“If we set the target to qualify for the World Cup, and that is our target that we clearly set at the beginning, we have to know exactly which kind of players can match this intensity and play intense games, not only one game, 90 minutes, without ups and downs, but also to repeat the same level of intensity in many games after three days, that’s the key thing,” Jankovic said.

Jankovic included Zhang Yuning in the list, after the 26-year-old center forward suffered a severe ankle injury in May and has only played three matches for Beijing Guoan as a substitute recently.

“He’s the future of the Chinese national team, for sure, as a deep striker. We don’t have so many players with that profile, and he is coming back after long injury, and we follow the whole process of his recovery. We know that he is not at 100% of his capacities. But we also know what we need at this moment, he can be a perfect option,” Jankovic said.

36 teams were divided into nine groups of four in the second round of the Asian qualifiers. China was in Group C with South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore.

The top two teams from each of these groups will move on to the third round, where they will be drawn into three groups of six. The top two teams from each group will secure their tickets to the 2026 World Cup, while the third- and fourth-placed teams from the three groups still have another shot.

China will take on Thailand on Nov. 16 for its opening game, also the first encounter between the two sides since 2019. China holds an advantage in the head-to-head record, despite conceding a bitter 5-1 defeat in 2013.

“We know everything about them. They had some European experience, also played two games in Europe recently. We know everything. But this is only for my information. I will just put the necessary information in the team about the opponent. We will stick to our values. That’s why we use these eight friendly games to create our own way of playing and our own routines. We will just stick to our way of playing in our routines and let the opponent adapt to ourselves,” Jankovic emphasized.

Five days later after the Thailand game, China faces South Korea at home in Shenzhen, with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain to lead South Korea’s attacking line. Jankovic acknowledged the opponent as among the world’s top, but asserted that the Chinese team will spare no effort in its pursuit of a home win.

“We will play against the world level team. South Korea is a top team, not only in terms of Asian football, but in terms of world football, in terms of individual quality, team stability, and confidence. That’s the big challenge for us.

“As I always say, we will always play to win. It will be our first home game in qualifiers. We have to show excellent mentality. We have to match up in mentality, in desire to win, in generosity, fighting all together. And then we can hope to make a good result, when I talk about a good result, It’s always winning,” Jankovic said.



Indian Abroad News Desk
Indian Abroad News Desk
Indian Abroad is a news channel and fortnightly newspaper meant for Australia’s Indian community and, besides news, focuses on lifestyle subjects like health, travel, culture, arts, beauty, fashion, entertainment, Bollywood, etc. Our YouTube channel here features daily news bulletins besides infotainment videos on lifestyle subjects.

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