The Asian Cup in Australia was my first tournament, and competitive games, as China manager. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I have been struggling to get into the national side of this save and this was a great opportunity to get more of a feel for my China team. Before the tournament the FA expected me to reach the quarter finals and we were placed in Group B with Saudi Arabia, North Korea & Uzbekistan, lets see how we got on…
Match Day 1 – North korea
After shaky performances in pre-tournament friendlies (losses to Finland and Israel) our first match was against the infamous North Korea.
Not the best of starts yet we came away with 3 points. We didn’t control the game and weren’t creating enough which led me to switch us on to ‘Attacking’ which yielded 2 goals and turned around the game. Poor performance, but 3 points to start of the tournament was the main thing.
Match day 2 – Uzbekistan
Another poor performance, but 3 more points leaving us joint top of the group with Saudi Arabia. Gao Lin came in up front to score 2 goals that would win us this game, but the worrying statistic was 0 clear cut chances for ourselves, compared to 4 for Uzbekistan. I was unimpressed to say the least.
Match Day 3 – Saudi Arabia
By far the biggest challenge in the group would come in our 3rd game, in a battle for top spot.
Our first good performance of the tournament left us with our first loss of the tournament. FM gives me a headache. After going 2-0 down quickly, we battled back to 2-2 and had enough to win the game. Finally we had some sort of control and direction to our play. Saudi Arabia would go on to the final so this was an extremely pleasing performance in hindsight.
2 wins and a loss left us second in the table and booked us our place in the quarter finals.
quarter Final – japan
The draw threw up one of Asia’s biggest rivalries- Japan vs China. Japan were clear favourites having won the previous tournament in 2011. However, as with Germany and others in FM, there team was filled with greyed out players, making them largely unpredictable.
3-1 rather flattered the east Asian giants. We were very much in the game, even when playing with 10 man from the 43rd minute after 23 year old Zhang Jiaqi was sent off. They grabbed their 3rd when we were pushing for the equaliser late on which glazed over the real image of the match. An 84th minute equaliser had me leaping out my chair before their 3rd, but it was disallowed and we left the tournament at the quarter finals.
We fulfilled expectations, and our last 2 performances gave hope for the future. It should be mentioned that Japan went on to win the tournament, beating Saudi Arabia. I am not going to be doing a squad review like I did with Hangzhou as I still haven’t really settled on a first XI, but that needs to be done ASAP.
Thanks for reading, advice on national team management would be especially welcome & I hope to see you next time.