Kim Pan-gon: Hong Kong must cope without striker Chan Siu-ki
The prolific striker is reportedly injured and will miss the Asian Cup qualifier against Vietnam
Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon has played down the absence of striker Chan Siu-ki as the team prepare for Friday's crucial Asian Cup qualifier against visitors Vietnam.
After making his appearance for Chinese First Division side Sunray Cave in their opening match against Chengdu last Saturday, the Hong Kong forward was reported to have suffered a hamstring injury and would not be released by the Guangdong-based club for Friday's group E match. Sunray Cave won Saturday's match 2-1 with another Hong Kong player, Leung Kin-pong, scoring the winning goal, but Leung still needs to serve his second international-match ban and is not available.
Kim, who had all the other 21 players at yesterday's practice session at Sandy Bay, said the team would cope without prolific striker Chan, who has scored 34 goals for Hong Kong.
"Chan is an important player but we have to trust the club that their player was injured," said Kim. "Indeed, we played without him in the recent friendly against Malaysia and we managed well. I don't think the team will be seriously affected just because one player is missing.
"We have already some other options up front such as Jaimes McKee and Lee Hong-lim if we are looking for fast breaks, or Chan Man-fai if we want to have more control of the ball for launching attacks."
After a goalless draw against Uzbekistan in their opening group match last month, Kim challenged his players to produce another strong performance if they want to become one of the two teams from the group to reach the regional finals in Australia in 2015.
"We focused a lot on defence when we played against Uzbekistan, but this should not be the case against Vietnam," Kim said. "We need to raise our standard to another level and try to get all three points."
Left back Kwok Kin-pong may need to shift to the right as Vietnam have a fast left winger that only Kwok's fighting style may be able to cope with, according to the coach, leaving Cheung Kin-fung with the chance to start on the left.
Meanwhile, former Citizen midfielder Chen Zhizhao is likely to make his international debut for China, who will take on Iraq in group C in Changsha, Hunan, also on Friday.
The 25-year-old, now playing for Corinthians in the Brazilian First Division, was called up by China coach Jose Antonio Camacho for the crucial tie after some impressive performances in Brazil. The diminutive player made his debut for Corinthians as a substitute in October and had an assist in a 1-1 draw against Paulista when he made his first start two months ago.
China lost their first group match to home side Saudi Arabia 2-1 last month and the Spanish coach is now under great pressure to produce results. China dropped to 109 when the latest Fifa world rankings were released last week.