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Ivankovic optimistic about plan of attack

New Team China head coach vows to win over fans by playing the modern way ahead of Singapore doubleheader

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-20 09:13
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Team China head coach Branko Ivankovic oversees training in consultation with a member of his staff. [Photo/ CHINA DAILY]

With a new coach at the helm and a new attacking style to be tested, the Chinese men's soccer team is embracing upcoming World Cup qualifiers as a clean slate to restore faith in the struggling program.

Desperate to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 2002, the men's national program has pinned high hopes on new coach Branko Ivankovic to help rebuild the squad into continental contention and lead it out of the shadow of perpetual underachievement on the pitch and recent corruption scandals off it.

The 70-year-old Croatian has talked up his chances of pulling off the tall task, but that optimism will be tested with a pair of Asian zone World Cup qualifiers against Singapore, first away on Thursday and at home in Tianjin five days later.

"I am expecting two wins and hopefully we can win by playing in a positive way that the fans want to see. We'd like to win back fans' support with two excellent games," Ivankovic told China Central Television through an interpreter last week in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

The former Iran (2002-06) and Oman (2020-24) coach admits that trying to add attacking flair, creativity and aggression to the squad will take time, largely due to the lack of quality competition and poor technical standards in the Chinese Super League, where he guided Shandong Taishan to a league title in 2010 during a 16-month stint with the club.

He insists, however, that it's never too late to start trying.

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