'Straight to bed' - Hong Kong’s footballers battle to recover in time for World Cup clash against China
Hong Kong face a battle to recover in time for Tuesday’s crunch World Cup qualifier against China – which coach Kim Pan-gon described as the biggest game in his career.
Returning from a long trip to Maldives this morning after a tough game in which Hong Kong struggled to win 1-0, the team were told to go straight home and sleep.
“It is important to have a quick recovery after such a tough match,” said the coach. “We can’t do much training in the coming days as we need to ensure the best conditions for the players before Tuesday’s match.”
Fitness coach Seigo Ikeda said the players were tired after rushing immediately from the game to catch a seven-hour flight back to Hong Kong.
“They were too excited and could not sleep on the plane,” said Ikeda. “It is almost impossible for them to get full recovery in such a short period of time before their next match on Tuesday.
“I will discuss with coach Kim on how we are going handle the training intensity.”
With 13 points from six games, Hong Kong are second in the group and have a three-point advantage over China, though they have a game in hand.
A win over China at Mong Kok Stadium could boost Hong Kong’s hopes of reaching the next round of the qualifiers which features the best 12 teams in Asia.
Kim admitted he had never expected Hong Kong still to be in contention with only two matches left.
“This is going to be the biggest match and I know all Hong Kong people are watching us,” he said. “I can feel the pressure but this is positive pressure.
“The players also get excited for such a highly motivating game and we all look forward to a good result.
“We respect China as they are stronger than us. Strategically we should make a strong defence but we also have more weapons up front following the inclusion of three new naturalised players.
“They did well in the last two games as let us hold the ball up longer than before so that our midfielders can come up and give support.”
Both Sandro and Alex Akande scored on their international debuts in a friendly against Myanmar last weekend, while Paulinho (Paulo Carreiro) scored the winner against Maldives from the spot.