China success marred by Zheng Zhi injury concern

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 Zheng Zhi was withdrawn early in the second half of China's 2-1 victory over DPR Korea on Sunday.

Coach Alain Perrin is sweating on the fitness of China captain Zheng Zhi ahead of their AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 quarter-final against the hosts on Thursday, after the midfielder was withdrawn early in the second half of their 2-1 victory over DPR Korea on Sunday.

Influential skipper Zheng 34, had risked suspension by starting the game against DPR Korea having already received a yellow card in their tournament opener against Saudi Arabia but although he avoided a second booking of the competition he was substituted in the 53rd minute as a precaution.

By then Sun Ke had already netted a first half brace to set China on their way to a first-ever 100 per cent record in the group stages of the continental championship since they first appeared at the finals in 1976, although Gao Lin's own goal in the second half did make for a nervous finish for Perrin's side in front of more than 18,000 fans at Canberra Stadium.

"Zheng's got a little problem in his back and there were some other important players we didn't let play because of little issues. We hope it's not that bad and I hope they recover before the next game," said Perrin.

"Zheng Zhi is a key player and very important as he is an experienced player who helps organise the team.

"After he left the field we had trouble in our organisation in the middle of the field. It is obvious if you don't have the key players on the pitch you will have difficulties."

Nine years Zheng's junior, Samsung Man-of-the-Match Sun Ke had continued his goal-scoring streak after netting the winner against Uzbekistan in Brisbane on Wednesday, scoring his second and third goals of the tournament, and Perrin highlighted the contribution of the attacking midfielder to China's unbeaten progress through the group stages of the competition.

"Sun Ke is a very good player and has strong self-confidence. He is a very young player with a good spirit so I think he's an important and helpful part of the team," said Perrin.

"He is good with both feet, can shoot and is a threat on goal, this is important because we do not have too much going forward so it makes me plan and build up this kind of strategy that all attacking players can shoot and score."

China's next challenge is a formidable one in the form of hosts Australia at Brisbane Stadium in four days' time as the tournament enters the knockout stages.

"Playing against Australia the host team will be very difficult for us but after three very difficult matches we've got a new record for Chinese football with nine points in the group stage which gives us confidence," added Perrin.

"For the next game, we'll take very good preparation taking into consideration the conditions of the players and considering injuries to the players."

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