Monday, June 16, 2008

China makes embarrassing exit from the World Cup’s qualification 2010

By China Watcher

With the Summer Olympics just around the corner, I will continue to add my comments on the sporting development in China besides politics.

Shameful, that is the only word to describe Chinese football fortunes in the prevailing World Cup Asia qualification campaign.

The defeat by Iraq on home ground (in Tianjin) by 2-1 was the final nail into the coffin of the already tattered and uninspiring performance from a team which lacks creativeness and is “goal-shy” in front of the many opposing goal mouths. China drew their first three games in the group but consecutive home defeats spelt an end to their campaign – this time a first round exit. The loss will drive the football crazy fans further away from the many big provincial stadiums which, at times, were only partially filled in the Chinese Super League.

China coach Vladimir Petrovic felt that luck was not on his side as the Chinese did possess two goal bound shots which were saved on the line and that the Iraqis successfully converted the only two scoring opportunities to goal. Even if the two shots were counted as goals, and the team wins by a 3-2 margin, do you think that it is sufficient to take the Chinese team further to the final round and to the World Cup finals? The Chinese team is ranked number 9 in Asia, a drop from a high of number 5, a few years ago. If you cannot even win against mediocre teams from Asia, how could you provide a decent challenge to the competitive teams from Europe and South America?

I do agree that luck is a quintessential part of sport like soccer but if you were to take a hard look at the overall World Cup campaign, the Chinese players just fell short of the qualities to take them to the next round.

Most of the players lack the basic football techniques – straight simple precise and short passing evidently lacking in the team play. And the Chinese players also loved to play safe and not being adventurous to penetrate opposing defenses. Whenever there is a coordinated attack to the opposing half, you would have noticed that there is a clear lack of supporting play from the midfielders and other fellow colleagues who are nowhere to be found. Although at times, they tried to play fast flowing football, it is not fluid and it breaks down quite often. Further, it lacks quality playmakers who can actually read and dictate the game and provided pin-point passing to the forwards and support at the backs. Understanding (bordering telepathy communication) among the players is also absent and it is needed when you employ certain attacking strategies like 1-2 passing etc. The forwards also lack the necessary sting to threaten the defense and in this compartment it evidently lacks deadly strikers who can convert half a chance into goal.

I noticed that there is still hope in the younger breed of national players who are more aggressive and have been able to add the necessary vitality and boost to the senior team especially in the last two games.

If you do not have the quality material on hand, there is no point in hiring the best coaches from around the world. In reality, you cannot turn ordinary dogs into a pack of hunting wolves. You would obviously need to locate “baby-wolves” from the new breed of dogs and nurture them gradually into an efficient and effective hunting unit.

If I have a say in the running of the soccer business in China, I would revamp the whole Chinese FA, beginning with the dismissal of the Head, Xie Yalong. The running of football should be left to the people who are capable and have a strong passion for the game and there should not be interference from the political spheres, hopefully.

Soccer should be run like a business entity with Manager, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman – each with a different role to play. If the objectives are not met, there will be responsibilities and accountabilities and if it is satisfied then there will be ample rewards as well. The same would apply to the players.

Players must be developed at a very young age. Establishment of professionally-run soccer academies in every province is crucial in providing the teaching of soccer skills at an appropriate age. Before the school participants are selected to join the academy, it is important that they do not pick up the bad habits that are prevalent among the current batch of national and club players – hot tempered, incompatible lifestyle, poor discipline, both on and off the field and if I am not wrong, some are even involved in gangsters and corruption activities.

Not too long ago, the Chinese soccer scenes were littered with allegations of corruptions among the people involved in the beautiful game – officials, referees and players. This is an area which must be tackled and cleaned up before the next phase of soccer development can takes place.

I am impressed with the Dutch development of soccer, in which every professional club is responsible for uncovering talent and nurturing them into a complete and successful player with the right aptitudes and attitudes. Just look at how the Dutch is able to continuous develop new talents after the older batch had gone into retirement. One good example is the talented Wesley Sneider, a product of Ajax Amsterdam Academy, who might just be the most sought after player after the completion of Euro Soccer 2008.

China is blessed with a large pool of school-going children, due to its huge population of 1.35 billion, to tap from in order to reverse its soccer fortunes. Every year, in China, there is an estimated 13 million new entrants into Primary 1, which is larger than the whole population of Holland. I do not think it will be difficult to find a “Maradona” or a “Pele” among the school kids if there are proper and sincere programs to uncover talents at the newly established soccer academies or institutes.

I always believe that the organization of soccer in China is in a total mess and this has led to the decline in soccer standards or stagnation in the level of play in China over the past decade. It is important to accept this reality and adopt radical methods to turn China into a feared and truly world-class soccer team – for both men and women, not only in Asia but throughout the world.

Forget about now, let us look at 2018.

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