Team China starts preparation for FIFA World Cup qualifiers

Branko Ivankovic Photo: Xinhua

Branko Ivankovic Photo: Xinhua

As China’s national soccer team convened on Monday in Shenyang, ­Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, to begin preparations for a June match against Thailand, team head coach Branko Ivankovic emphasized the only goal for that World Cup qualifier is “to win.” 

“We know the significance of this game,” Ivankovic said, referring to the match against Thailand. “Our only goal is to win.”

The team held a training session at the Shenyang Olympic Sports Center on Monday evening, the place where China will host Thailand on June 6.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) initially announced a 29-player roster for the training camp, but later it added Beijing Guoan forward Zhang Yuning to the list, bringing the total to 30 players. 

The national team is facing several players’ injuries as well as star player Wu Lei’s suspension for the Thailand game. 

“No matter the personnel, we expect positive results,” Ivankovic affirmed. “The difficulties we face with injuries and suspensions cannot be used as excuses. We must make the most of the players we have available.”

Ivankovic also explained the adjusted arrival times for some players to allow for additional rest. 

“Wu Lei and Li Yuanyi will have three extra days of rest due to their suspensions. Jiang Guangtai [formerly known as Tyias Browning] will join the team on Tuesday. Our players have had a tough schedule, playing 11 matches in two months, so we aim to get them in optimal condition.”

After the Thailand game, the team will fly to Seoul to prepare for an away match against South Korea.

Regarding the key focus areas during the 10-day preparation period, Ivankovic emphasized the team’s offensive strategy. 

“Thailand is a capable team. We have analyzed their recent matches against South Korea, as well as our previous victory over them… We will play with a stronger offensive approach,” the Croatian told reporters on Monday. 

China currently stands second in their group with seven points, while Thailand is third with four points. 

A victory against Thailand is essential for China to secure second place in the group and advance to the final 18-team stage. 

Even a draw would complicate their chances, making the subsequent match against South Korea critical for China.

The Chinese national team faces a high-stakes challenge, and Ivankovic’s focus on a strong offensive performance reflects their determination to secure a vital victory against Thailand.

Naturalized player A Lan (formerly known as Alan Carvalho), excited to be back in the national squad, expressed his commitment. 

“It’s an honor to be selected for the national team. I’ve been playing regularly at the club level and will do my best to help the team,” the Brazilian-born player told reporters. “We need to believe in ourselves and work together to achieve our goals.”

Veteran keeper Wang Dalei also stressed the Thailand match’s importance. 

“This is a crucial game. We aim to boost our confidence during these training sessions,” Wang told reporters. “Thailand is a fast team, and our coach will implement specific defensive strategies.”

Shenyang is known as a lucky place for Chinese soccer, as it witnessed the team’s only qualification to the World Cup in 2002.

Reflecting on Shenyang’s historical significance for Chinese soccer, Ivankovic expressed his hope for local support. 

“I know Shenyang is a lucky place for Chinese soccer. It is where the team qualified for the 2002 World Cup. We hope the fans will fill the stadium and cheer us on.”