Due to bad luck and a clear miscarriage of justice by the referees, China had to accept another goalless draw with Hong Kong here on Tuesday in Group C of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Zone qualifying tournament. Only the eight group winners and four best second-place teams will enter the last stage of the Asian Zone qualifying campaign. Qatar, the 2022 host, has definitely topped Group C with 18 points after easing past Bhutan 3-0 tonight. China is standing third in the group with 11 points and two games to go.
Hong Kong is second with 14 points and one game remaining. Even though China beat the Maldives and Qatar in the remaining two games to overtake Hong Kong for the second place in the group, it is very difficult for China to be one of the four best performing runners-up among the eight groups on points. In their first meet in September, China hit four times on the frame of the Hong Kong team and both didn’t score. The same story repeated here Tuesday as China got another four hits on the frame. China controlled the game and kept offensive, but Yu Dabao’s goal in the 77th minute was ignored by the referees. “I fell disappointed about the result but not about our players. They have done their best.” said China coach Frenchman Alain Perrin.
“We should win the game although our opponents performed well in defence. We scored a goal but it was ignored by the referees.” Hong Kong’s South Korean coach Kim Pangon spoke highly of his player’s performance. “I feel satisfied about the result. Our players did a very good job, especially in defence.” Kim said.
China upset Saudi Arabia 1-0 in their Group B opening match on May, 2015, while the Uzbeks also collected three points, defeating North Korea by the same scoreline. It was 2004 when China, as hosts, were last in the knock-out stages, and they are fully aware of the threat of Uzbekistan, having never beaten them in three previous Asian Cup meetings. “We haven’t qualified for the knock-out stage for ten years but now we have a very good chance after winning our first match.” said defender Zhang Linpeng. China and Uzbekistan kick off in Brisbane at 07:00 pm (09:00 GMT). Three-time winners Saudi Arabia know that they must at least avoid defeat against North Korea after their upset loss against the Chinese to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the last eight. The Saudis were dealt a blow just before the start of the tournament when controversial striker Nassir Al Shamrani was ruled out with an abdominal injury. His absence was painfully obvious as the Saudis lacked firepower against China and coach Cosmin Olaroiu said he would be making changes to his starting line-up for the crunch 06:00 pm(07:00 GMT) clash in Melbourne. We know what we need to do exactly,we have only one way and it is very important to win the game,” he said. “With the changes we are going to make, we are going to make sure we try to get more power and score more goals.” North Koran coach Jo Tong-Sop is hoping his Swiss-based pair Pak Kwang-Ryong and Jong-Hyok can help his team overcome the odds and reach the last eight. “I rely on them and expect them to step up in the next games,” he told reporters on Tuesday.