2018 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifying

Euphoria in Chinese media as World Cup win over South Korea is hailed as a ‘football miracle’

But the team could come crashing down to earth with a bump next week in Iran

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 12:55pm

Chinese media reacted jubilantly to the country’s 1-0 win over South Korea that kept slim World Cup 2018 qualification hopes alive.

Official state newspaper The People’s Daily summed up the sentiment by posting on Weibo that the narrow win in Changsha, Hunan province, had “won the hearts of 1.3 billion people”. The post added “we expect China’s reds to deliver miracles”.

China still have only the slimmest hope of reaching the World Cup in Russia, and a tough trip to group leaders Iran next Tuesday could see the euphoria quickly deflated.

But for now, all is well in China’s football world with the win – China’s first in the group in their sixth game – being hailed as a masterstroke from coach Marcello Lippi, a World Cup winner with Italy.

Seeds of growth as China claim historic win over South Korea, but too little too late for World Cup chances

“The number one hero is undoubtedly the national football coach Lippi,” a People’s Daily article read. Lippi, formerly Guangzhou Evergrande’s manager, was appointed in October with China bottom of their group with one draw and three defeats. He is unbeaten in four games since taking over.

“Silver Fox Lippi and his team didn’t give up the idea of creating miracles and the win over Korea creates the first impossible step,” wrote Sohu.

Former Chinese international player Li Jinyu wrote on Sina: “Regardless if the team can finally qualify, we can sincerely hope that this game can be a new starting point, let’s start from here.”

QQ said the “Sino-Korean War” drew an audience of around 30 million on state television.

The game was played amid rising political tensions between the two countries over the THAAD missile defence system.

Nationalist tabloid the Global Times said a hashtag “Opposing South Korea begins with football” had received over 640,000 clicks on Weibo before the game began.

State news service Xinhua optimistically claimed the somewhat fortunate win as hard proof that China’s efforts to become a world football superpower were well on track, hailing it as “an early success in China’s national soccer reform push that began in 2015, and [showing] that the foundations are being laid for future success.”

The 800-word piece added: “[The win] is the product of self-starting intuitional [sic] reform on the part of the country’s soccer organs. A major milestone in this reform was the CFA’s being granted independence from government.”

The victory would also “encourage more youngsters to love play the sport,” Xinhua said.