China’s victory over Australia in the 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup has re-invigorated fans, with many calling the win a sign of China’s “comeback” in the soccer world.
The Chinese national football team defeated Australia’s Socceroos 4-3 on Sunday, a victory that exceeded expectations for many fans disappointed with the team’s humiliating 5-1 defeat to Thailand in June. News of the win quickly became the number one trending topic on China’s Sina Weibo social network, with hundreds of comments from netizens chiming in to express their “shock”.
“Thank God I can finally be proud of Chinese football,” one relieved fan wrote.
“Who said that Chinese football is dead?” another asked. “[Despite hardships], our team is desperately pushing forward and changing. This should make us glad. We need to encourage them – after all, they represent our China!”
Others were not nearly as enthusiastic. Critics were quick to point out that China had won against an inexperienced Australian team. Celebrations were premature, they said, because China ultimately lost the East Asian Cup’s top spot to Japan, who won the tournament in a 2-1 match against South Korea.
“I’ve been afraid to expect too much of Chinese football lately,” a netizen wrote. “The results are okay. At least we don’t have to be ashamed of [our team] anymore.
"But we shouldn’t get carried away. We have to acknowledge the fact that their opponents were all inexperienced.”
“A win is a win,” another fan shot back in response. “You shouldn’t have this kind of attitude… If they win, you should celebrate and be proud. [At least], you should recognise…that our Chinese soccer team is improving, and that this is a comeback.”
Australian Socceroo coach Holger Osieck praised the Chinese team in a press interview after the match.
“I could see in the first two games that China had a really well organised team,” Osieck said. “They played very flexible football in the midfield.”
Osieck also acknowledged the inexperience of his latest lineup of Australian players, a “developmental team” that nevertheless came to the East Asian Cup for the purpose of playing against “good Asian teams who are in full swing and in their season.”
China’s achievement as runners-up in the East Asian Cup comes as a bright spot for a team that has been plagued with controversy over the last several months.
After their crushing June defeat to Thailand in a friendly match, labelled by Chinese state media as a “humiliation,” the Chinese Football Association issued an online apology for the poor performance of the team.
Chinese players were also accused of deliberately losing the game as a form of mutiny against former coach Jose Antonio Camacho, who was sacked after the loss, his 11th out of 20 games.