Asian Cup Recap: A Tale of Two Halves
In their second Asian Cup match, China came out strong from the start, with an early chance from Han Peng less than 30 seconds into the game. The surprisingly offensive tactics led to an early goal off a great free kick by Shao Jiayi and was followed by a goal by young workhorse Mao Jianqing. Mao has been putting in some fabulous performances in the first two games and the goal was well deserved. Goalie Li Leilei came up with some good saves to keep it 2-0, but after the referee granted Iran a questionable free kick in injury time, they capitalized with a beautiful free kick of their own. At the half, Chinese coach Zhu Guanghu made the mistake of deciding to sit back and play defensively and some questionable subs, especially Zhu Ting for Mao, cost China dearly as Iran was able to get another goal and make it a 2-2 game. When Han suffered a minor knack which had him limping, Zhu made the decision to take him off instead of removing the tired Shao and put on central defender Du Wei instead, leaving China with no striker for the crucial end of the match. Fortunately, the defensive strategy paid off as Iran was unable to capitalize and both teams walked away with a point after the 2-2 scoreline stood.
As a fan, the result was extremely disappointing, especially considering how the China squad took the game to the Iranians in the first half, but I think before the match, if you talked with most Chinese fans, they would have been more than pleased with a draw. China will need at least a point against Uzbekistan to advance in the group, that match is to be played Wednesday evening.
In other news, if China can advance, their path is made far easier knowing that they won't have to meet the Koreans in the next round as they've been knocked out. However, China can't look past the Uzbeks and must focus, a preview of that game will come tomorrow. Some other bloggers are writing on the Asian Cup, to view Shanghaiist's wrap up of the Iran game, go here, as well as China Machete who has some issues with how the Chinese media is portraying the Aussies (sorry, don't have the link right now, but then again, I don't blame the media, as the Aussies arrogance coming into the tournament, and into the AFC as a whole, set them up for such ridicule).