‘0 goals, 0 wins’ cliffhanger for China, last opponent is ‘defending champions’
0 goals, and 0 wins. It could be the final score for China. With only 90 minutes to go, can Chinese soccer avoid a historic humiliation?
China, ranked 79th by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), will face Qatar, ranked 58th by FIFA, in the third match of Group A at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Qatar Asian Cup at the Al Rayyan Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, at 0:00 p.m. KST on June 23.
China currently sits second in the group with two points (two draws, zero goals). They drew 0-0 with Tajikistan and Lebanon in consecutive matches. Qatar, on the other hand, qualified for the round of 16 with six points and top spot in the group after a 3-0 win over Lebanon and a 1-0 win over Tajikistan.
China was also silent against Lebanon. After exchanging rough fouls with Lebanon, they were unable to score for the entire 90 minutes. Wu Lei, China’s star striker, missed a crucial chance with a clumsy shot, causing lamentation. Tajikistan and Lebanon are underdogs, ranked just 106th and 107th respectively in the FIFA rankings, but they were no match for China.
This is the first time in history that China has failed to score a single goal in the first and second rounds of the Asian Cup. Unsurprisingly, public opinion has been terrible. “Yankovic’s team has broken the downward spiral,” said China’s Fengpai Newspaper. Many fans say it’s the worst ever,” while Sina Sports harshly criticized Jankovic, saying, “The Chinese Football Association was wrong to appoint him.”
However, the number of round of 16 spots remains open. China will advance to the Round of 16 as the second-place team with five points if they beat Qatar. It’s unlikely that China will beat the defending champions, but the ball is round.
It’s also possible that they’ll draw and finish with just three points. If Tajikistan and Lebanon, both with one point, also draw, China will finish second in the group. They would finish the group with three wins and three draws. However, if Tajikistan and Lebanon emerge victorious, China will drop to third place and will have to compare their performance with the other third-place teams in the group. The tournament is a round of 16 with the best four performers out of the six third-place teams in each group.
If China loses to Qatar, the situation is complicated. If Tajikistan and Lebanon tie, China, Tajikistan, and Lebanon will all be tied on two points with two draws and one loss. And since they would all be tied, there would be no winner-take-all. The second place will be decided by goal difference and aggregate points.
For now, Jankovic is confident: “We are motivated for the last match of the group stage. We want to beat Qatar and advance to the round of 16. Of course, our opponent is a strong team that won both of our previous matches. But we know how to win. Beating Qatar is the surest way to reach the round of 16.”
If Jankovic’s hopes are dashed, China will finish the group stage with zero wins. China has always won at least one game since the tournament’s inception in 1992 with four teams in each group.
This time around, however, they’ve put in one of their worst performances and are in danger of finishing with zero goals, let alone a win. Goalless in the group stage would be the first humiliation in China’s history if it becomes a reality.