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China looking to impress visiting fans in World Cup qualifier vs. S. Korea: coach

All Headlines 19:56 August 31, 2016

By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- The Chinese men's football head coach Gao Hongbo said Wednesday his players will try to impress visiting fans with their best performance against South Korea in their upcoming World Cup qualifier.

South Korea, ranked 48th in the latest FIFA rankings, will kick off their final Asian qualifying round with No. 78 China for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at 8 p.m. Thursday at Seoul World Cup Stadium. The 23-man Chinese squad arrived in Seoul on Monday.

China have beaten South Korea only once in 30 meetings, with 12 draws and 17 losses. Their only victory came at the East Asian Championship in 2010 during Gao's first stint as the national team manager.

The 50-year-old coach said he will try to meet the expectations of the Chinese fans, who are hoping for the nation's first World Cup appearance since 2002. The Korea Football Association (KFA) sold 15,000 tickets to the Chinese side, but counting those who reside in South Korea, there could be as many as 30,000 Chinese supporters at the 66,000-seat stadium.

"I'm very excited about tomorrow's match," Gao said at the press conference at the match venue. "We are not a strong team, but we will show our best skills on the pitch."

Gao, who returned to the helm after Frenchman Alain Perrin was sacked in January, admitted that China struggled in the previous qualifying round. In addition to Qatar, China were paired with relatively easy opponents like Hong Kong, the Maldives and Bhutan, but they only collected five wins, two draws and one loss.

"It was not easy for us to reach this final round," he said. "But we will show a better performance tomorrow than what we did in the past."

South Korea boss Uli Stielike previously said although China has been investing big money in its professional league, it doesn't seem to help in raising the competitiveness of its national team. Gao refuted Stielike's opinion, saying that the investment in the top-tier Chinese Super League is actually helping their players.

"I think because of those investments, our players' skills got better and they understand tactics well," he said.

Gao, who will be coaching in the final World Cup qualifying round for the first time, said he knows there is a long road ahead for China to book their World Cup berth. In 2002, China earned their World Cup ticket after South Korea and Japan were given automatic spots at the football event as co-hosts.

"We're not thinking about just this match (against South Korea) in the final round," he said. "As a coach, of course, I want to collect a victory, but I want to look into the process of our football's development."

Chinese captain Fen Xiaoting said he is also going to think more about how the team will play against South Korea than about the result.

"In football match, it's not important whether you lead or trail the opponent," he said. "Since many fans have big expectations for us, we will try to play a good match."


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