Sport

Unlucky eight

Even more humiliation for China’s soccer team

Liu Jianye: the first Chinese player to score in a fixture with Brazil

It’s taken the Chinese football team a long time to score in a match against Brazil. They’ve finally done it, although that first-ever goal ended up being scored into their own net.

Liu Jianye slotted the own-goal past his keeper late in the second half of the match, which was played last week in the Brazilian city of Recife. Not that it was a pivotal moment. Liu’s strike saw his side go 7-0 down and a penalty kick would follow. Final score: Brazil 8, China 0.

The recriminations were not slow in coming. As WiC has frequently pointed out (see issue 8), China’s national football team elicits a mixture of scorn, fury and black humour among the nation’s fans. But its most recent defeat marked the team’s worst ever loss, leading the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald to describe the night as one of “shame”.

Chinese netizens, as usual, were scathing about the humiliating result. In fact, even the fans in other countries deemed it superlatively awful. On the Goal-legacy fan forum, one user commented: “That was the one of the worst games I have ever seen. Brazil should have scored 20.”

A British commentator was more derisive – it was like watching Real Madrid play Crawley Town, he suggested (Crawley is an unloved place, on the fringes of Gatwick Airport).

The Brazilian sports press was no kinder in its own assessment of the action. Super Sports Daily complained that the match was such a walkover that Brazil’s team didn’t even get any exercise; while Universal Sports compared China’s national team to a “punch bag”.

At times it looked less like a competitive match than training ground target practice for the Brazilians. The fourth goal was a good example. Fans watched as a long range strike from Neymar easily beat the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Zeng Cheng. The shot deserved to go in, but instead bounced back off the crossbar. No matter. The ball was immediately picked up on the edge of the penalty box and nonchalantly hammered into the net at the second attempt by Givanildo Vieira de Souza (a player more commonly known as Hulk).

The two teams have played on three occasions, but this was far and away the worst performance by the Chinese. In the 2002 World Cup, China lost to Brazil by a mere four goals. And in 2003, the Chinese even managed to eke out a nil-nil draw in a home game against the South American giants.

So what went wrong this time? The Yangtze Evening News claims the scheduling was partly to blame, with the match played back-to-back after a friendly in Europe against Sweden. This meant the Chinese squad was tired and jet-lagged – a major disadvantage when playing one of the world’s best on their home turf.

China’s manager, the Spanish coach Jose Antonio Camacho, was against the fixture from the start but he was overruled by the Chinese Football Association, the newspaper reports. The local media thinks it knows why: a $200,000 appearance fee was reportedly brokered.

One thing is certain: the result is a catastrophe for Camacho. As we pointed out in WiC118, he arrived last August, having coached Real Madrid and Spain’s national side. In order to accept arguably the toughest job in international football, Camacho and his coaching staff are being paid €4.5 million a year. But a little over 12 months after he took charge many are wondering if he’s worth the cash, having just presided over the most shambolic performance ever by a Chinese side.

Internet portal ifeng.com laments that Camacho has not proven the “saviour” of Chinese football that was hoped. But it didn’t reserve all the blame for the coach. After all, in June his team had lost by just one goal to the world champions Spain – in Spain itself. That looked like progress, of sorts.

The website reckoned that the main reason for the drubbing in Recife was the absence of five of China’s best footballers.

They all play for club side Guangzhou Evergrande and were declared unfit for international call-up by their club. That was hardly a coincidence thought iFeng, given the team faced an Asian Champions League quarter final away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad.

The website sympathised with the selection dilemma faced by Evergrande’s Italian coach Marcello Lippi and agreed that the scheduling of the Brazil friendly was “nonsense”. But it concluded that even were Evergrande to win the Asian Champions League, the victory wouldn’t “wash away the shame” of the 8-0 loss against Brazil. And even that looks less likely now given Evergrande lost the first-leg 4-2 on Wednesday).


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