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Wu buoyed by Madrid upset ahead of Vietnam showdown

China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-06 11:22
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Wu Lei in action during a Spanish second division league football match between RCD Espanyol and Malaga CF in Cornella, Spain, May 2, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Star striker Wu Lei says his club's recent shock victory over Spanish giant Real Madrid has given him a boost ahead of China's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Vietnam on Thursday.

Wu was a second-half substitute as newly promoted Espanyol stunned La Liga leader Madrid 2-1 on Sunday.

The 29-year-old then took an overnight flight to join Team China's training camp on Tuesday in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, where China will face Vietnam in its third match of the final phase of Asia zone World Cup qualifying.

"It was an important win for my club and I hope to bring the momentum to the national team," Wu said. "Every time I return to the national team, I have a change in my spirit and my mentality, which is conducive to my performance."

With the exception of Wu, China's players have been training in Sharjah for almost a month.

"I know it's a difficult time for the team. The long closed block of training is not always easy to deal with mentally. But all of us have the same goal, which is to win this game, and we are confident that we will achieve it," Wu said.

After losing to Australia and Japan in its first two matches of the final phase of qualifying last month, China realistically needs to defeat Vietnam to keep alive its slim hopes of reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"We have analyzed the opponent. The most important thing is how to deal with their different formations and tactics. I think we all know the Vietnamese team well now and understand what we should do," Wu added.

Former China international defender Li Weifeng reckons even if Wu and his teammates ultimately fail to qualify for Qatar, racking up wins against lesser-ranked opponents like Vietnam is vital for morale going forward.

"They should do something positive in their campaign, and this means they should win the games they should win. They must get three points from the Vietnam game," said Li, who played in central defense for China during the country's solitary appearance at a World Cup-the 2002 edition in Japan and South Korea.

Li believes that the manner of China's opening two defeats was concerning. China lost 3-0 to the Aussies and 1-0 to Japan without mustering a single shot on target.

"I think it's nothing surprising that China lost to Australia and Japan. We can accept the losses, but we saw nothing positive in those two games," he said.

China has been drawn in Group B along with Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Vietnam. After playing a home-and-away round-robin format, the top two teams will qualify directly for Qatar 2022, with the third-place finisher booking a spot in a playoff.

After the first two rounds of matches, China is rooted to the bottom of Group B, with Vietnam in fifth place following defeats to Saudi Arabia and Australia.


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