Tag Archives: Asian Cup

China’s Unrealistic World Cup Dream

Chinese President Xi Jinping can do many things, but bringing a World Cup to China won’t be one of them.

We’ve covered Xi’s love of soccermanufactured or otherwise – several times here on China Sports Insider, but the subject is back in the news again after his recent comments on promoting the game in China. First thoughts are the moves being made do look like sensible, long-term overhauls, rather than the short-term, quick fixes that government officials have previously initiated solely to gain attention and/or promotion (see Beckham, David).

China's President Xi Jinping receives an Argentine soccer jersey with his name on it from Argentina's Vice President Amado Boudou in Buenos Aires Continue reading China’s Unrealistic World Cup Dream

10 questions for 2015

Lots happened last year – Li Na retired, Sun Yang tested positive, and Chinese soccer continued to suck – but what awaits in 2015? 10 questions for you below…

1. How will China fare at the Asian Cup?

We’ll start with the most pressing questions because China kicks off its Asian Cup campaign on Saturday. Group B – China, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea – is a Group of Death only in terms of capital punishment. Alain Perrin has lost just once in 11 games since taking charge last February, but if China fails to progress into the knockout stages, the knives will be sharpened. The days of China finishing 2nd (twice), 3rd (twice) and 4th (twice) in the Asian Cup seem a distant memory, but this tournament will show how much progress has been made under Perrin.

2. Will Zhang Xizhe ever play substantial minutes?

One player who is not in Perrin’s squad is Wolfsburg’s new recruit Zhang Xizhe. The Volkswagen-owned club has already scored a victory following their low-risk, 1.5 million euro signing, with the VW logo on Zhang’s jersey beamed all over China just from a few training sessions. Cynics say that this was precisely the point of the transfer, and the only way to prove them wrong will be if Zhang sees substantial minutes on the pitch – but it won’t be easy to break into a side that currently sits second in the Bundesliga.

3. Who will replace Li Na?

Remarkably, it was less than a year ago when Li Na won her second major title at the Australian Open, but her retirement offers a huge opportunity to whoever is ready to take over at the top of Chinese tennis. Peng Shuai (22), Zhang Shuai (61) and Zheng Jie (95) are the three Chinese players currently in the Top 100, but with another seven in the Top 200, plus youngsters like Youth Olympics singles champ Xu Shilin waiting in the wings, it’s a question of when – not if – we see the next Top 10 player. The men not so much…

4. Which city will be awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Just Beijing and Almaty are left in the running, with the result due to be announced on July 31. Almaty is a stronger bid than it’s given credit for, but Beijing remains a firm favorite in this two-horse race. Sub-question: will the Games clash with the 2022 World Cup?

5. When will Stephon Marbury make the jump into coaching full-time?

He’s made no secret of the fact he wants to coach in China and has already taken up some coaching roles, while continuing to lead on the court. But Marbury turns 38 in a few weeks and can’t play on forever, even though his contract will keep him in the capital until 2017. He’s been named both an honorary and a model citizen of Beijing, so he would seem the perfect role model to lead the Ducks in a more official capacity.

6. Who will be the next major winner from China?

While the tennis scene is looking healthy, it’s more likely China’s next major winner will be a golfer. 25-year-old Feng Shanshan has already won the 2012 LPGA Championship, but watch for teenagers Cindy Feng Yueer, Janet Lin Xiyu and Feng Simin to soar up the world rankings now that they will all be on the LPGA Tour this year.

7. Which male golfer will emerge from the pack?

Guan Tianlang made global headlines by making the cut at the Masters as a 14-year-old in 2013. He may well go onto to have a stellar career, along with a whole crop of other promising Chinese teenagers, but 19-year-old Li Haotong is leading the way at the moment. He won three of the final four PGA Tour China tournaments to top the order of merit and earn a card for the Web.com Tour. Keep an eye on him this year.

8. Can Ding Junhui win the World Champs?

While golfers and tennis players have four majors to contest each year, for snooker players it’s all about the World Championships. Ding Junhui set records on his way to becoming world number 1 last year, but until he can win the big prize, he won’t truly have fulfilled his potential. Chinese sports fans will be glued to their TVs in April to see if he can do it.

9. Will Sun Yang remain China’s dominant swimming star?

2014 was not a good year for Sun Yang after testing positive for a banned substance and then appearing to be involved in the mother of all cover-ups. Note I said appearing, because whatever CHINADA and WADA said, it did not look at all good for China’s top sporting star. He has talent to burn, but was overshadowed in the pool by both Ning Zetao and Chen Duo who each won more golds (4) at the Asian Games than Sun (3). Rio in 18 months will still be the main yardstick, though.

10. Will China ever take to boxing?

Listen to boxing promoters (and, unfortunately, western journalists all too happy to print without fact-checking) and you would think that literally hundreds of millions of Chinese sports fans avidly tune in to watch two-time Olympic champ Zou Shiming knock down a series of tomato cans. The truth is more like two million (at a push). This year, though, he will finally fight for a world title, so the stakes will be real for the first time. If he wins, will the sport take off? I’m less and less convinced…

What would you like to see happen in 2015? Feel free to leave your questions or predictions in the comments section below.

China’s Group Of Death

Wednesday’s Asian Cup draw paired China with Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Given those countries’ reputations, expect global headlines about a literal Group of Death:

  • Group of DeathChina – estimated to execute far more people than the rest of the world combined
  • Saudi Arabiano. 4 in the global list with 79 executions in 2013
  • Uzbekistan – has what the IHF called a “wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights”, with the current government blamed for massacring hundreds in 2005. Continue reading China’s Group Of Death

Is Xi Jinping’s love of soccer a double-edged sword?

There’s a particular official within Chinese soccer circles who has developed a habit of starting each press conference or meeting with the words “I don’t know anything about football, but…” The intent is clear: if (when) this all goes south (again), it’s not my fault.

Xi Jinping at Croke Park in Feb 2012
Xi Jinping at Croke Park in Feb 2012

The state’s control of Chinese football is a large reason for its poor performance over the years: what is needed is a long-term plan, but Chinese officialdom rewards short-term thinking.

Having a man in charge of the country who loves the game would appear to be a positive, but this week’s Sports Talk column looks at how Chinese President Xi Jinping’s love of soccer may not actually be such a good thing for the sport after all…

Continue reading Is Xi Jinping’s love of soccer a double-edged sword?

China sneaks into Asian Cup through back door

Travelling Chinese soccer fans had better start saving up for a busy 2015.

China qualifies for Asian Cup, despite another desperate performance
China qualifies for the Asian Cup, despite another desperate performance

Days after accepting an invitation to play in the Copa America in Chile in June next year (subject to confirmation from the AFC), China will start 2015 in Australia playing in the Asian Cup after qualifying on Wednesday night.

But, as usual, China did it the hard way.

Continue reading China sneaks into Asian Cup through back door

Football Focus: China enters Copa America, Li Tie returns to Everton

Lots of soccer news at the moment…

As per the excellent Wild East Football, China has accepted an invitation into the 2015 Copa America in Chile, as one of Conmebol’s two regular guest slots. No one will be expecting much from the Chinese, but competing at this level can only help the country’s quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Chinese players prepare to face Iraq in their Asian Cup qualifier on March 5
Chinese players prepare to face Iraq in their Asian Cup qualifier on March 5

Continue reading Football Focus: China enters Copa America, Li Tie returns to Everton

Why Reggie is doomed to fail in China

The news that French football manager Alain Perrin (pictured below) has been appointed to lead the Chinese national team has caught most of the media by surprise, with my thoughts summarized in this Beijing Morning Post article (Chinese).

The new boss of the Chinese men's soccer team
The new boss of the Chinese men’s soccer team

“Reggie”, as he was known in the UK – after the hapless TV character Reginald Perrin – when he briefly managed Portsmouth in the Premier League nearly a decade ago, seems to have lost his way and it is highly unlikely that he can get his career back on track in China.

Continue reading Why Reggie is doomed to fail in China

Weekly Wrap: Beckham, Pacquiao, Liverpool, Asian Cup & ATP

Pac-Man, Zou Shiming have early start in Macau

Manny Pacquiao takes on Brandon Rios in Macau at around lunchtime on Sunday China time (to ensure a prime-time Saturday evening audience in the US). There was lots of talk from the Manny camp about how this one is for the Philippines given the recent typhoon, but that will all be forgotten when the bell goes. There was also a predictably entertaining build-up with trainers from each side getting into it in the gym – in other words, typical pre-bout stuff.

ImageTop Rank promoter Bob Arum said he expects around 200 million homes in China to tune in to see the main event, which, as usual, is way, way beyond the realms of reality. Continue reading Weekly Wrap: Beckham, Pacquiao, Liverpool, Asian Cup & ATP

UPDATED: China stands on verge of Asian Cup abyss

[UPDATE: It’s not disaster for China just yet, but things most definitely did not go their way this evening. Having tied Saudi Arabia 0-0 in Xian, news came through that Iraq had won 2-0 in Indonesia, so Iraq is now two points behind China for the final qualifying berth in their group with one game to play. That game? Iraq vs China, to be played in Dubai on March 5, is now winner takes all, though China would of course qualify if it was a draw.

Continue reading UPDATED: China stands on verge of Asian Cup abyss