‘Nothing is impossible’ as Hong Kong target unlikely World Cup win in Qatar after China heroics
Hong Kong need to win in Doha to have any chance of reaching the next round
“Nothing is impossible now” - that was the message from Hong Kong football’s powerbrokers as the team prepares for a final group showdown against leaders Qatar in the World Cup qualifiers after a magnificent performance against rivals China on Tuesday night.
Hong Kong need to beat Qatar - who have won all six of their games and qualified for the next stage - in Doha to have any chance of reaching round three as one of the four best second-placed teams.
Realistically, it’s highly unlikely – but, buoyed by a rousing display in the 0-0 draw against China, the HKFA will do everything they can to help make the dream come true.
“Qatar have a hundred per cent record in the campaign so far and have scored 20 unanswered goals,” said chief executive Mark Sutcliffe. “It will be incredibly difficult against them.
“Getting a point would be miraculous, winning is almost inconceivable – but having said that anything can happen in soccer.
“We have until the end of March to prepare, almost 4 and a half months. In January our elite development coach and new strength and conditioning coach will join us. Together with our existing coaches we will work out a strategy to be as best prepared as possible.”
Hong Kong lead China by three points but they have a game in hand with two home matches left against Maldives and Qatar. If the teams finish level on points, China will be second on goal difference.
Looking toward the long-term, Sutcliffe said the HKFA will try to build on the momentum around the national team, interest in which has risen to levels not seen in years.
“The improvement in our recent performances reflect the changes we have been making over the last few years,” he added. “We are trying to create an environment where nothing is left to chance and have more resources and expertise to identify, nurture and develop talent.
“The two matches against China and the other performances are an indicator that things are improving. The association must build on this and see it as a catalyst for further development.”
Ironically, Hong Kong’s success against China looks like weakening some domestic clubs, with rich mainland counterparts targeting HK’s naturalised foreign-born players.
After catching the eye of mainland scouts in the 0-0 draw in Shenzhen, HK’s team impressed again, with several representatives from the Chinese leagues believed to be in attendance at Mong Kok Stadium.
Centre-half Jean Kilama, who played a key role in stopping China in both games, admitted yesterday he would likely join a Chinese club when the transfer window opens.
“I am still waiting for the negotiation between the two sides and if they agree, I can leave in January,” said the Eastern defender.
“It all started after my performance in the Shenzhen game in September and there have been a lot of offers since then. It is an opportunity I cannot miss in terms of playing environment, rewards and my future development.”
Naturalised Hong Kong players do not take up foreign player slots in China’s domestic competitions – and with mainland clubs able to offer huge salaries, it’s an attractive prospect for both parties – Kilama is being offered a monthly contract worth over HK$200,000 by a club in northern China, perhaps four times his salary at Eastern.
His club and international partner in defence, Festus Baise, is also said to have caught the eye as well as Kitchee trio Alex Akande, Paulinho and Sandro.