Wednesday, November 11, 2009


China is unperturbed that they have been struggling in all their matches thus far in the World Cup Qualifiers at Invercargill.

They have won all three matches thus far, against Scotland, Austria and Wales with identical 2-1 scores and will face New Zealand and Malaysia on Thursday and Saturday respectively.

In the match against Wales, China had to comeback from a goal down to secure three points. Wales scored through Andrew Cornick in the 44th minute but China replied via Liu Yixian off a penalty corner three minutes later.

Na Yubo, who has the looks of a Shaolin Master, scored the winner in the 57th minute.

With nine points in the bag and in second place in the standings, China need to draw against Malaysia to book a place in the final on Sunday, irrespective if they lose to hosts New Zealand.

For the record, China and Malaysia have crossed sticks 32 times over the years, with Malaysia winning 21 matches, China 6 and the remaining 5 ending in draws.

China have however won the last two meetings, a 4-3 penalty stroke win after a 3-3 regulation time draw in the ¾ placing match during the Asia Cup as well as a 2-1 win in Beijing in 2007.

Ranked 13th in the world, the Chinese team did not have the best of preparations for the tournament as their National Games only ended on October 28. And the team got together only three days before the tournament commenced, arriving at noon a day before the qualifiers got underway.

The Chinese replaced their Asia Cup coach Guo Jie with Zhuang Xiodong who was the assistant to Kim Sang Ryul since 2005 preparing for the Beijing Olympics.

That was not the only change made as five players who played in the Asia Cup in Kuantan in May have been replaced by younger players.

“We are here with the strongest available squad and I m confident that we can win the ticket to the World Cup,” said coach Zhuang.

“The players are still tired after the National Games but we are slowly getting our rhythm and should be able to surprise in our last two matches.

“Realistically it is the match against Malaysia that will determine our fate as the Kiwis are very strong at the moment.”

Zhuang said that two of their better players Song Yi and Jiang Xishiang are playing in the Dutch League. And the national federation decided against requesting the players to return for the qualifiers.

“The experience that the two players will gain by playing in the Dutch League will serve China well in the years to come,” contends Zhuang.

“We have capable replacements and though we want to make it to the World Cup, we are looking towards the future and we realize the importance of exposure.”