China World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 9:35 PM
How they line up
The Chinese should line up with the towering Jiang Jin in goal, although youngster An Qi proved to be an able deputy during the qualifying tournament. Sun Jihai, a recent signing for Manchester City, is the right-back, Fan Zhiyi and Li Weifeng are in the middle, with the attack-minded Wu Chengying at left-back.
Sun and Wu like to go forward, and if either is missing the replacements are not up to the same standards. Wu's replacement during the qualifiers, Yang Pu, proved incapable of matching the Shanghai man's forays down the flank, and China's attacking game suffered as a result. Zhang Enhua was a regular in central defence for several years and could play a part in the finals if he is fit.
Li Tie is the fulcrum of the team in midfield, with his tackling and passing dictating the pace of play. The 24-year-old, the current Chinese Player of the Year, has already attracted attention from European clubs, and if he maintains the cool head he showed during the qualifiers, then he should be on his way west come July.
Li Ming should start on the left of midfield after missing most of the qualifying tournament through injury, although Li Xiaopeng is another possibility. Ma Mingyu offers experience and hard graft on the right. Qi Hong plays behind the strikers and is the provider of much of China's creativity while also pitching in with quite a few goals himself due to his surging runs through the middle. Former starlet Shen Si is an option in the attacking midfield role.
Up front, Hao Haidong and Yang Chen lead the line, with Hao particularly dangerous, at Asian level at least. The veteran forward has never had the chance to test his scoring ability against the best in the world and he is unfortunate that the opportunity has come so late in his career. For Yang, the World Cup presents an opportunity to prove to his club, Eintracht Frankfurt, that he still has the scoring prowess that prompted them to sign him from Beijing in 1998. The 28-year-old will be a threat both in the air and on the ground.
Should either Hao or Yang struggle to score, Milutinovic has lanky Su Maozhen at his disposal. The striker led Shandong to the Chinese League title in 1999 and his aerial ability is virtually unmatched in Asia. Zhang Yuning is another possibility up front.
Milutinovic is also likely to bring a number of youngsters to the World Cup for the experience. Goalkeeper An has already played for his country, making his international debut before playing for his club, Dalian Shide, while defender Du Wei and forward Qu Bo have also appeared for the full China side. Du has been hailed as a long-term replacement for Fan Zhiyi, while Qu attracted the attentions of Boca Juniors during the most recent World Youth Championship before the Buenos Aires side signed Japan's Naohiro Takahara.
From World Soccer magazine.