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China looking to get on a roll

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-10 09:05

Editor's note: This is the second instalment in China Daily's series of previews ahead of the Asian Games, which open on Aug 18 in Jakarta.

 

Clockwise from top: Houston Rockets player Zhou Qi, Under-23 striker Zhang Yuning and star spiker Zhu Ting are expected to play pivotal roles as China eyes glory in basketball, soccer and volleyball at the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

 

China is really "on the ball" heading into the Asian Games, which open on Aug 18 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Basketball, soccer and volleyball, to be precise.

The Asiad is seen as something of a dress rehearsal for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, so here we present a preview of what to expect from Team China:

Basketball

Since Yao Ming was elected chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association in 2017, the eight-time NBA All-Star has pushed many new reforms aimed at bolstering the nation's hoops prospects, and Jakarta will be the first big test.

Yao has split the national team into two squads - Team Red and Team Blue - but only the former will compete in Indonesia, with a lineup that includes young stars like Zhou Qi, Ding Yanyuhang and Abudushalamu Abudurexiti.

Zhou, the only Chinese player who competed in the NBA last season as a member of the Houston Rockets, is expected to provide both leadership and offensive punch.

"After a year in the NBA, I'm much more stable than before thanks to all the games I played," said Zhou. "I'm expecting to have better performance on court in Jakarta."

Ding is also expected to play a dominant role for China after the 24-year-old forward signed with the Dallas Mavericks this summer. Last season he averaged 26 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game en route to earning his second straight MVP award in the CBA, and he's expected to be in the Mavs' lineup for the NBA China Games in October.

On the men's side, China's main competition at the Games should come from the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and Iran.

The women's squad, coming off two impressive warm-up wins over Canada, has won seven of its past eight outings and pocketed Asian Games gold in 1982, 1986, 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Soccer

Based on the history of China's national under-23 squad at the Asian Games, winning gold this time around is unlikely. A more reasonable target is making the quarterfinals.

There is hope, however, especially given that it has been a while since the implementation of the Chinese Football Association's new U-23 policy.

In 2017, the CFA released two new policies designed to aid the development of homegrown talent - adjusting the appearance policy for players under the age of 23 in the Chinese Super League (CSL) and China League One, and limiting the number of high-priced foreign players.

CSL clubs must now pay a levy equivalent to foreign player transfer fees costing 45 million yuan ($7 million) or more to a youth development fund, while the number of under-23 Chinese players that teams play must at least equal the number of foreigners on the pitch.

Teams also must have at least three under-23 players in their 18-man lineups and must start at least one of them.

Although there has been some doubt about the new policies in terms of whether under-23 players could reach the standard of the CSL, youngsters like Wei Shihao of Beijing Guo'an have seized the opportunity to prove their worth.

The General Administration of Sport of China has released a strong delegation for the Games. The roster includes Zhang Yuning, who this summer moved on loan to Dutch top-flight team ADO Den Haag from England's West Bromwich Albion. He is the only Chinese male player currently playing in Europe.

China's women's squad, which dominated the Asian Games from 1990-98, has since passed the torch to Japan and Democratic People's Republic of Korea but is hopeful that the current squad, boasting Paris Saint-Germain's new signing Wang Shuang, can put the nation back on track.

Volleyball

China has been a dominant spike force in Asia for many years, particularly in the women's game, with multiple Asiad titles. After winning in 2010 however, the team was defeated by South Korea and relegated to silver in 2014.

Lang Ping will once again lead the charge as head coach of the team that also boasts Turkey-based superstar Zhu Ting, who has been awarded 10 MVP awards at all levels of competition since debuting in 2011, including being named MVP at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"We gather all the force we have to prepare the Asian Games," said Lang. "To win the Asian Games is not easy, and will require a tough fight. No matter who will go, we all have to play our best games to win."

The men finished fifth and fourth at the 2010 and 2014 Asiads. Given the team's performances so far this year, it looks unlikely it can return to the top in Jakarta, but fans are hoping for the best.

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