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Evergrande's success awakens a sleeping giant

China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-19 08:16

Guangzhou Evergrande has raised China's hunger for soccer glory despite a lopsided loss to Bayern Munich that followed the Asian champion's victory over the African winner in its Club World Cup debut.

"This tournament is very important, very prestigious. It is not easy to qualify for it nor to win it," said Pep Guardiola, whose side beat Evergrande 3-0 in the semifinals on Tuesday night.

Against the five-time UEFA champion and 22-time Bundesliga winner, Evergrande wasn't expected to pull off a shock result. However, the team's Italian head coach, Marcello Lippi, somewhat raised expectations before the match by claiming: "We are going to play against one of the best teams in the world. When you take on a team like this, out of 100 matches you lose 99 but you can win one and I hope that will be the next one. You never know."

Evergrande performed well at its CWC debut.

In the quarterfinals, the team dished out a 2-0 defeat to eight-time African champion and five-time CWC participant Al Ahly in the first appearance by a Chinese team at the world's top club event.

To qualify for the event, Evergrande lifted China's first AFC Champions League title in 23 years on Nov 9.

Although Lippi described the Asian victory as "a kind of confirmation of the football level of the whole country", the Guangzhou club's success cannot alter the fact China remains in ninth place in Asia and is struggling at 93 in the current world rankings.

Some pundits also claim Evergrande's big-spending approach is not suitable for Chinese soccer.

"Evergrande's model cannot solve the problems in Chinese soccer and the top-level design might never be optimized," said Wei Di, a former chief of the Chinese Football Association.

Jin Zhiyang, a former national team coach, agreed: "Evergrande's model cannot save Chinese soccer. There needs to be systematic construction, especially in the nurturing of young talent."

However, Zheng Zhi, the Evergrande captain who was named AFC Player of the Year last month, said Lippi was an inspiration who not only whipped up Guangzhou's desire for victory but also instilled a new-found hunger in Chinese soccer.

Zheng is also the captain of the Chinese national team that includes 11 Evergrande players.

"We will use what we learned from Lippi to make the Chinese national side a much better team," Zheng said.

- Xinhua


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