Chinese national football coach Bora Milutinovic has jokingly offered to throw himself off the Great Wall if his team doesn’t advance to the final round of the World Cup.
On Sunday, the Chinese fans in the stadium in Guangzhou province were ready to push him.
Not until substitute striker Li Bing scored with just three minutes remaining in regulation time was China assured a 3-1 victory over Cambodia in a World Cup qualifying match.
The Chinese fans were not happy about the close call. They began chanting “Bora out!” late in the match, but Milutinovic was not concerned.
“My mission here is not to instruct the spectators to enjoy a football game, but to train the Chinese team and lead them on to the next phase,” Milutinovic told Xinhua News Agency. “To win is the bottom line.”
China, playing without injured star striker Yang Chen, took a 1-0 lead after five minutes on a goal by captain Ma Mingyu.
Cambodia tied the match at the 12-minute mark when Chea Makara broke past Chinese defender Li Weifeng and scored. It was only the second goal Cambodia had scored in the six-match qualifying series.
China grabbed a 2-1 advantage in the 22nd minute, but Cambodia’s defense tightened and kept the margin at one goal until the final moments.
“China made it very difficult for us,” Cambodia coach Joachim Fickert told Xinhua. “But my players never gave in. They always tried to create a chance. “They finally found one and scored a goal against a big team like China. I never expected it.”
China has won all five of its qualifying matches and will advance to the next round if it wins, draws or loses by fewer than five goals in Sunday’s final match against Indonesia in Jakarta.
Cambodia finished 0-5-1.
The team will receive a healthy dose of international competition next year when a new league comprised of Southeast Asian national teams begins play.