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Asian Cup: China Still Targeting Semifinals
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China will not waver from its goal to reach the Asian Cup semis, Chinese coach Zhu Guanghu said in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

While Iran should steamroll over minnows Malaysia, China will have to dig deep against Uzbekistan who must win to qualify.

Though a tie with Uzbekistan on Wednesday would put China through, Zhu told the press that his team was in it to win it.

"We fight for the win against any rival. Uzbekistan is a strong team, and we are prepared for a tough clash," he said.

Zhu did confess that China has been dogged by injuries and will be without captain Zheng Zhi and key defender Li Weifeng in Wednesday's match.

Zheng and Li will miss the match after accumulating too many yellow cards, weakening the whole backbone of the team by removing its star midfielder and one of its starting back four.

China's last group match against Uzbekistan was further clouded as first-choice goalkeeper Li Leilei was ruled out with injury.

Website Sohu.com reports that Li's injured right ankle would not allow him to play. Li strained his joint in the first half of the game against Iran, during an attempted clearance.

Replacement Yang Jun, picked by Zhu after convincing performances in league matches and a warm-up series in the US, will look to the back line to shield him from the expected deluge of Uzbek attacks.

Zhu must now also decide how to compensate his weakened defensive structure. However, Zhu struck a note of defiance, saying "China has enough substitutes to replace Zheng and Li, " said Zhu.

"We do have problems from injuries and suspensions, but that will not affect the match with Uzbekistan," he noted.

"We are consistently improving our strategies and we are set on reaching the semi-finals,” he concluded.

But Uzbekistan will be looking to smash Zhu’s dream after crushing Malaysia 5-0 but losing out to Iran, 2-1.

Coach Rauf Inileev noted that his team were on level ground with China to reach the knock-out rounds. Although China will be hoping for at least a draw, Uzbekistan is expecting to contend with China's strong strikers at full wing.

The two sides will play their decisive match on Wednesday at Shah Alam Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2007)

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