No reason China cannot progress in qualifiers, says CFA chief
Chinese Football Association President Chen Xuyuan has cranked up the pressure on head coach Li Tie by saying that the national team would have no excuse for failing to reach the next phase of Asia's qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup finals.
China is in second place in Group A of the second round of Asia's preliminaries and its hopes of claiming the only guaranteed berth in the next round are out of its own hands.
However, Chen is confident Li's team, recently bolstered by the selection of five overseas-born players in the former Everton midfielder's squad, has prepared well enough to progress.
"There's no reason (for China) not to make it to the next round," Chen said.
"First of all, Team China has the capability of qualifying. Secondly, the players have trained and prepared for more than a year with this firm goal.
"The coaching staff have also drawn lessons from past success and failure. The CFA has been working with Team China to provide the most professional resources possible.
"We often say we need to let the people see Chinese football is making progress. But if we get eliminated at this stage, others will think we must be slipping instead of improving."
Li's side trails group leader Syria, which has a perfect record after five games, by eight points with the Chinese having played one match fewer than the Middle East nation.
Victory in all four of its remaining games would still leave the Chinese behind Syria should the group leader pick up wins over minnows Guam and the Maldives as expected.
With only the group winner certain to advance, China's best hopes of progressing could be to claim one of the four best runners-up places available in the next phase.
And its hopes were boosted when the country was awarded the hosting rights for the remaining games after the qualifiers were forced into centralized hubs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I look forward to the games, and I'm confident that the players will do well," said Chen.
Former national skipper Fan Zhiyi also believes that China has what it takes to advance to the second phase of the final 12 teams of the Asian qualifiers.
"The Chinese side has everything in order and the players are also in high spirit," said Fan, who captained China at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.
"I don't think any side of Guam, the Philippines, the Maldives and Syria is a match for the Chinese team. If they cannot win the ties against these four teams, there is no use talking about the following round of qualifiers," he stated.
"I think the Chinese team needs to prioritize its tasks on hand and be aware that its most difficult rival is Syria," Fan added.