AFC Asian Cup: China under fire after a narrow win over Kyrgyzstan in opening group game

  • Coach Marcello Lippi is angry with the team during half-time
  • Striker Yu Dabao saves the team with second-half goal despite being forced to play in defence in domestic league
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 10:15pm

Team China came under fire from mainland supporters and media after their lacklustre 2-1 victory over Kyrgyzstan in their Asian Cup opening game in United Arab Emirates.

Although the result will still see them through to the knockout round of 16 if they can beat the Philippines in their next group C match on Friday, their performance was less-than-convincing with Asian powerhouses South Korea in the same group.

The Koreans also needed a second-half goal before scraping past the Philippines 1-0 in the other group C match.

Sina Sports headlines read “Yu Dabao saves the team alongside gifted goal from the opposition”; “Team China come from behind to score opening win” and “Marcello Lippi furious in changing room during half-time”, while the official Xinhua New Agency said: “China come back to beat Kyrgyzstan after Pavel Matiash’s bizarre own goal”.

Beijing Daily said Lippi scolded the “dreaming” national team during half-time team-talk to wake the players up as China “scored an opening victory through a blunder from the opponents”.

Korean media also criticised the performance of China, especially their top player Wu Lei. Starnews said, “The one who saved China was not Wu, who was built up ahead of the match, but the goalkeeper from Kyrgyzstan. Wu played the full match but failed to take any goal-scoring opportunity that came his way. His performance was disappointing.”

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But supporters were far more critical.

One claimed on Sina Sports, “As a matter of fact, the result was just luck,” while another said, “Lippi went furious in the changing room as he is responsible for the performance of the team, although he knows from the bottom of his heart that Chinese are not suitable for the game of football”.

On Tencent Sports, one fan wrote, “The Chinese Football Association should introduce new policy. If the national team players fail to perform on the field and live up to expectations with the national flag on their jersey, they should be banned for one season.” Another said, “Thanks for veteran Yu who scored the winning goal, not Wu”.

Wu, who plays for reigning Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG, won the player of the year award and claimed the golden boot with 27 goals in the 2018 season.

However, the 27-year-old forward is a doubt for the next game following a shoulder injury sustained during the match.

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“We are not sure yet (if Wu can play against the Philippines),” said coach Lippi after the match. “He might have dislocated his shoulder or hurt his collarbone. We’ll see.”

The Italian said he thought they might lose the match after trailing in the first half, but was thankful for an improved performance in the second half.

“My comment on the match is very simple,” he said. “I am not happy with our performance in the first half but I am proud of them in the second half as the players played a high level game for the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

Lippi also paid tribute to goal scorer Yu, a striker who has been converted to a makeshift defender often in this season’s domestic league.

“He plays different positions from up front to defence because there are too many overseas strikers in the league. But when the national team needs his goal-scoring power, he delivered,” said the coach.