There’s no reason to believe China will take a complacent attitude into Sunday’s World Cup football qualifying match against Cambodia. The Chinese were their own worst critics after a 1-0 win at the Maldives last Saturday. Star defender Fan Zhiyi led the self-analysis.
“We haven’t played like this in more than 10 years,” he said, comparing the contest to a 4-0 loss China suffered against Iran four years ago in World Cup qualifying. China had defeated Maldives 10-1 just six days earlier.
“We should be more versatile instead of always using a 4-4-2 formation,” he said in an interview posted on the Asian Football Conference Web site. “The Maldives were fully prepared for our tactics, and we should have used a more versatile 3-5-2 formation.”
Team strategy is in the hands of veteran Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic. He has guided four different countries into the second round of the World Cup: Mexico (1986), Costa Rica (1990), US (1994) and Nigeria (1998).
Several Chinese players have been improving their skills in the European leagues. Fan Zhiyi plays for the English squad Crystal City. Xie Hui, who scored the only goal Saturday, plays for the German squad Aachen. Striker Yang Chen has been sent to his German team Eintracht Frankfurt and will miss Sunday’s match.
Yang Chen will return when China meets Indonesia May 13. Both teams are currently undefeated in the four-team qualifying group. China is the heavy favorite to advance.
The match, at 3:30 pm at Old Stadium, will be shown live on TVK. The match is also being televised live back to China. As a result, neither the Chinese embassy nor several local hotels that mostly cater to Chinese tourists are expecting a large influx of fans.
Local ethnic Chinese will have a rare opportunity to cheer for their homeland. “I’m Chinese, so of course I’m going to root for China,” said a man who would identify himself only as Mr Weng.
An owner of a restaurant near Psar Thmey, the Guangxi province native said his six years in Cambodia haven’t changed his allegiances.
“Most of those who immigrated from China are probably going to be cheering for China, while ethnic Chinese-Cambodians will be more likely to pull for the Cambodian side,” he said.
Cambodia is 0-3-1, with the bright spot being a 1-1 draw against the Maldives on April 15. Cambodia’s final match will be at China on May 20.