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2018 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifying

Paulinho shrugs off China taunts on eve of crunch World Cup qualifier

New Hong Kong striker refuses to rise to the bait that naturalised players won't make much difference

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 12:39am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 12:39am

New face Paulinho has dismissed mainland reports that Hong Kong's naturalised players will hardly make a difference to the team in their crunch World Cup soccer qualifier against China on Tuesday.

The Kitchee striker, who only obtained his Hong Kong passport last month along with clubmates Alex Akande and Sandro, scored the only goal for Hong Kong during their away 1-0 win against Maldives last week.

They can say whatever they want ... the most important thing for us is to beat them on the field and I am very confident we can achieve the goal
Hong Kong striker Paulinho

"They can say whatever they want to and there is no importance at all," said Paulinho after finishing a training session at So Kon Po Recreation Ground on Sunday. "The most important thing for us is to beat them on the field and I am very confident we can achieve the goal."

China striker Yang Yu, who scored four goals against visitors Bhutan in their last match, was quoted by mainland media as saying the new naturalised players of Hong Kong were not that good.

"We watched them play in the Maldives games but did not think they were that good or difficult to handle. As long as we deliver and with a little luck, we can surly beat Hong Kong," Yang, who played in September's 0-0 draw with Hong Kong in Shenzhen, was quoted as saying.

"After we failed to beat Hong Kong at home, we'll be more focused this time and beat them."

Another China player, Huang Bowen, joked that it was not as if Hong Kong's naturalised players are Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Hong Kong team finished a closed-door session yesterday before heading to their base hotel in Sha Tin.

They will have a final practice session at Mong Kok Stadium on Monday before playing their most important match so far in the Asian qualifiers.

Hong Kong are second in group C with 13 points, three ahead of the mainlanders who have one game in hand. Qatar are leading the group with 15 points.

Only the top team from the eight groups will advance to the next stage, along with the four best second-placed teams. Hong Kong and China are realistically eyeing second place.