Young players give Chinese football a shot in the arm
Updated: 2011-08-19 12:38
By Wang Qingyun and Yan Weijue (chinadaily.com.cn)
China's midfielder Yang Yang (C) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the team's quarterfinal game against Japan at the 26th Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, Aug 18, 2011. [Photo by Cui Meng/chinadaily.com.cn]
* Chinese youth have won the respect of all Chinese fans with their perseverance and unremitting spirit despite their 2-3 loss to Asian champion Japan, Wang Qingyun and Yan Weijue reports from the Bao'an Stadium in Shenzhen
Team China ended their Universiade football dreams after losing 2-3 to Japan in the game's knockout stage at the Bao'an Stadium in Shenzhen Thursday night.
The victory ensures four-time Universiade champion Japan a last four spot, setting a semifinal clash with Team Russia, who won over Uruguay 5-4 in a penalty shot.
China used the same starters from the last three group matches to take on Japan, who have won the Universiade football title four times with a team consisting of members of the national football team and the Olympic football team. Higa Yusuke, one of the key players of the Japanese football team during the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, was benched throughout the game.
The game opened with a dramatic Japanese goal when Japanese forward Senuma Yuji took a long pass from the backfield and rushed through the slack Chinese defense to lob a goal, leaving Chinese goalie Liu Tianxin no time to react.
China later was awarded a free kick, but was intercepted. In the 8th minute, China's midfielder and most productive scorer Fan Zhiqiang ran to the right of the Japanese goalpost before a rival defender kicked the ball out of the bottom line, earning a corner for the Chinese. Yet the ball was again head-butted out by the Japanese, though China's failed a second corner on the left.
In the 22nd minute, Fan Zhiqiang took a pass from midfielder Yang Yang and kicked the ball from the right, which bounced on a Japanese player's foot and flew into the net, when most Japanese players gathered away from him and seemed hesitating to lay siege.
Two minutes later, China intercepted the ball among Japan's round of attack. Yang Yang, China's one and only Universiade athlete who is also studying for a PhD, drove it all the way from the backfield, broke loose of the rival defense and kicked a long shot between two Japanese players just outside the penalty area. China took the lead 2-1, leaving home fans in ecstasy.
China's captain Lu Bin (4) fights for a ball against Japanese players during their quarterfinal game at the 26th Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, Aug 18, 2011. [Photo by Cui Meng/chinadaily.com.cn]
When the second half began, Japan switched down all its two forwards with midfielders Kawamoto Akito and Kawai Yosuke for more chances on the offensive end.
The Japanese replacement was paid off when the super substitute Kawamoto scored twice with a header from a corner in the 58th minute and another header from a free kick in the 75th minute
Japan made another two substitutions in the 75th minute and the 87th minute, but China made only one substitution, replacing defender Liu Lijia with defender Jing Xuan.
The host's stamina problem and technique shortage became obvious as the second half proceeded, thus allowing Japan to keep the game's pace under their feet.
China's forward Li Xun (R) fights for the ball with a Japanese player in their men's quarterfinals at the 26th Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, Aug 19, 2011. [Photo by Cui Meng/China Daily]
However, Chinese players threatened the Japanese goal in the 87th minute, when forward Li Xun made a shot but was blocked by Japanese Goalie Masuda Takuya.
In the four minutes of extra time, the young host team got a free kick and a corner, but were unable to take the chance as skipper and defender Lu Bin headed a shot that was deflected on the goalpost and flew out of the bottom line.
Jin Zhiyang, coach of Chinese football team expressed his disappointment for the team to miss the opportunity of knocking out the Japanese counterpart at the press conference.
"I said to the players before the match that we lost to Japan in penalty kicks at Daegu Universiade eight years ago, that was when the Japanese team began their domination at Universiade, winning three champions in a row. It's a return of history, but today we feel sorry for not being able to make history." He said.
He praised the players' efforts in the game tonight, adding that a bright future of Chinese football has been seen through it.
"But our players went an all-out effort in today's game. The gap between Chinese football and that of Japan are known to everyone in the past eight years, when we have been enduring a hard time. But tonight I said to the players before the game that we must let the Chinese fans see hopes of the future of Chinese football. I think we have made it."
However, Jin pointed out the Chinese players made "stupid mistakes" in the game, which caused worst consequences they have to pay for, referring to the backline defenders' missing on Japan's Kawamoto, who scored two headers on the left of the goal in 58th and 75th minute.
"The players failed to realize their opponents' change in tactics, thus made no adjustment. They made the same mistake, and fell into the same trap in the same place within 10 minutes. It's unforgivable.
"It was the best opportunity we've had in the past eight years. I have no idea when we will get such a chance the next time," he adds.
A Chinese player reacts after the team's 2-3 loss to Japan in their men's quarterfinals at the 26th Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, Aug 19, 2011. [Photo by Cui Meng/China Daily]
On the other hand, the Japanese coach Masaki Ohira gave high credit to the match. "It is the greatest game I've ever coached, one that I will not forget in my life."
He said the Japanese team won due to unity and depth. "We beat China because all of the 20 players on our team stay together for the victory, though some of them have played in the Olympics, and some are playing in Japan's professional league. The lineup is the best one in Japan's (Universiade) history."
He also took a look at the strength and weakness from both sides, saying that Chinese players fell short in the second half.
"I didn't know China has used the same lineup throughout all of its four games until the end of game. They scored two goals in the first half, but they gradually lost energy in the second half," said Ohira. "I could feel how strong the Chinese team are when they led us 2-1 in the first half. The result of the game may be different if they can hold on to the last minute. "