An injury crisis has left China vulnerable ahead of its Group E
Asian Cup qualifiers at home to Singapore with defenders Sun Jihai,
Du Wei and Ji Mingyi all ruled out.
But on the positive side, several overseas-based players will be
back, giving a lineup headache to coach Zhu Guanghu.
Shao Jiayi, who plays for Bundesliga side Energie Cottbus,
arrived in Tianjin yesterday after the game against Borussia
Moenchengladbach on Saturday. The midfielder is expected to lead
the national team's attack tomorrow.
Shandong Luneng striker Li Jinyu is likely to start while club
teammate Han Peng and Manchester United prospect Dong Fangzhuo will
compete for the other striking options. That depends however if Zhu
chooses to go with Shao as an attacking midfielder or as a
If Shao plays in the midfield, Li Tie, who moved to Sheffield
United from Everton this season, will jostle for starting position
with national team regular Zhao Junzhe.
Meanwhile, crisis-hit Lebanon's enforced withdrawal from the
qualifying competition has cast a dark cloud over across the
region, Reuters reported.
Lebanon pulled out earlier this month because of the heavy
damage inflicted on the country by Israeli air strikes. Asian
officials approved Lebanon's decision with several players missing
amid the devastation.
Lebanon was scheduled to play Bahrain away tomorrow in one of 12
Australia faces Kuwait in the other Group D game in Sydney with
a young Socceroos side slight favorites to become the first team to
qualify for next year's finals.
Kuwait will take heart from the fact Australia go into its first
competitive game of the post-Guus Hiddink era with just two members
of the squad that reached the last 16 of the World Cup.
Holder Japan will also be expected to take three points at home
to Yemen in Group A.
New coach Ivica Osim has named an inexperienced squad
unrecognizable from the one that flopped badly at the World Cup
under previous coach Zico.
Saudi Arabia will look to keep pace with Japan when it travels
to India in the other Group A game.
Iran suffered a blow when playmaker Ali Karimi pulled out of its
Group B game with Syria through injury but will still start as a
firm favorite to win in front of a partisan crowd in Tehran's Azadi
(Shanghai Daily August 15, 2006)