Singapore provide Camacho's first test as China coach
Less than three weeks into his new job, Jose Antonio Camacho faces his first test as head coach of China's national team when the third round of Asia's qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup kicks off.
Appointed to replace Gao Hongbo on August 14, the former Real Madrid and Spain coach takes his team into a meeting with Singapore today, hoping not only to secure three points but to also learn vital lessons about his new charges.
The meeting with Raddy Avramovic's side will be the first game in a new era for Chinese soccer, and it is one of two World Cup qualifiers that will be played four days apart, with China due to travel to Amman to meet Jordan on Tuesday. With that in mind, Camacho (pictured) will be paying particularly close attention at Kunming's Tuodong Stadium this evening.
'It's the first match for me so I would like to learn more about my players from this game,' said the 56-year-old, who took his native nation to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup. 'Then, I plan to study the performance ... so that we can prepare well for the next match against Jordan.
'Every time, I ask the players to do their best, and the result does not depend on luck. Working hard is always very important.'
Camacho has had a little over two weeks to acquaint himself with his team, and the style of play used by both the Singaporeans and the Jordanians in a qualifying group that also includes 2007 Asian Cup winners Iraq.
The top two teams in the group progress to the final phase of the continent's qualifying competition for Brazil 2014, and there is added pressure on the Chinese after the national team failed to advance to the last round in both of their last two attempts.
One change that has already been constituted is the return of controversial defender Li Weifeng as captain. 'I never thought I would sit here as captain again,' said the 32-year-old. 'I appreciate the trust that has been placed in me and I think it's better to show what I can do on the pitch and not say anything. I think that's the best thing.'
While Singapore are 60 places below China in the world rankings, they are unlikely to be pushovers. The two nations met in qualifying for the 2007 Asian Cup finals, with a 0-0 draw in Singapore before China registered a narrow 1-0 win on home soil thanks to an injury-time penalty from Shao Jiayi.
A similar result tonight would ratchet up the pressure on Camacho.