Where to now for the hapless China national team after they miss another open goal against regional minnows India?
A goalless draw against lowly India marks a new low in Marcello Lippi’s tenure as China boss
The reaction was inevitable. The two biggest populations in the world met in a football match on Saturday night and once again it ended in embarrassment for China.
India have long been an accommodating opposition for the Chinese national team. China have not lost any of their 15 meetings, winning eight and drawing seven. The game in Suzhou fell into the latter column and what’s worse is that it was goalless despite China knocking at the door again and again.
Goals are a problem for China. Wu Lei might lead the race for the golden boot in the Chinese Super League but he once again failed to carry that form over to national team duty. He could have won the game in the 70th minute but hit the bar, hence the inevitable inquests and obituaries for the Chinese game.
Questions have been asked. None more pointed than were these 30 footballers on show really the best both teams could find from a combined population of almost 3 billion people?”
One article on Sina Sports suggested that China would struggle to find a weaker opposition than India in men’s football and would have to play a women’s team. After the goalless draw it is probably best that even the left field thinkers at the Chinese FA don’t entertain that idea for fear of even more embarrassment.
For the two nations that everyone expects to one day come good on the world stage, this was bad and there is worse to come for China. Syria tomorrow in Nanjing will be a much sterner test for Marcello Lippi’s side as they look to prepare for January’s Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
That game will likely be compulsory viewing for the 55 under-25s who have been called up for military training. The newly shorn footballers watched the India game in their barracks sporting their new camouflage fatigues with the television balanced on two chairs.
There are many words that go through my mind about the major CFA u-turn in Chinese football at the moment, but nothing says it as well as this picture. In theory a “sensible” plan, in practice a small and wobbly makeshift that can fit on two chairs and is hard to see from afar. pic.twitter.com/nS4qfC3HMf
— Tobias Zuser (@duwenzhe) October 15, 2018
Thankfully for the rest of us there is the domestic game to be getting on with. While the CSL title race resumes with champions Guangzhou Evergrande hosting Beijing Renhe on Saturday for the chance to cut the lead to a point, league leaders Shanghai SIPG make the short trip to Nanjing to play Jiangsu Sainty on Sunday night with the title race still in their hands.
It’s all up for grabs at the other end of the table, too. There are 15 points to play for and the bottom five sides are within ten points of one another. Guizhou Zhicheng look the most likely, four points adrift at the bottom, but anything can happen and any of the teams right up to Tianjin Teda on 28 are still in the quagmire.
One of the teams coming up to replace them is already decided. Wuhan Zall are returning to the Chinese Super League for the first time since the 2013 season.
The race for second place and the other automatic promotion spot is less cut and dried.
Hangzhou Greentown have 45 points while Shenzhen FC are on 44 with three games to play. League One returns from the international break with Hangzhou hosting Yanbian Funde on Saturday afternoon and Shenzhen travelling to Dalian Transcendence 24 hours later.
It’s worth keeping an eye on who comes up based on the performances of newly promoted teams in the last few seasons. This year Beijing Renhe and Dalian Yifang have secured top flight football for another year while the 2017 campaign was marked by Tianjin Quanjian getting AFC Champions League football at the first attempt by finishing third.
Only two teams have come up and gone straight back down since 2011 – Harbin Yiteng in 2014 and Wuhan Zall in 2013. Wuhan’s fellow promoted side that season was Shanghai SIPG who are on course to end the Guangzhou Evergrande era of dominance. The champions of course have had a stranglehold on the CSL title since they came up from League One in 2011.