The soccer gods must have placed a curse over China, the country (and the team), yesterday as both games played here resulted in 0-0 goalless draws, but at least in China's case (I didn't see the 2 Koreas face off), it was far from boring. Australia definitely failed to answer a lot of the prematch questions about their side and China took things to the Aussies, showing a good deal of fight.
China's lineup was as expected, though Sun Jihai started instead of Shao Jiayi and the youngster Jiang Ning got a runout over Wang Dong. The first half was full of bluffed chances by China, namely one by Zheng Zhi and two horrible misses by Zhu Ting toward the end of the half, while the Aussies had some chances of their own, though Zong Lei came up with some great saves.
The second half was where things really changed. I think the Aussies failure to get on the board and China's near misses in the last 5 minutes of the first half helped the Chinese believe that this game was definitely winnable for them. They had some great chances through Zhu and Han Peng, but again misses and saves kept them off the scoreboard. In the closing minutes of the match, China was given a penalty when the Aussie keeper brought down Qu Bo and Shao Jiayi, who is typically spot on for China stepped up, only to have the penalty saved. A flurry of action in the last few minutes, chances for both teams, but all for nought, as the final whistle was blown on the 0-0 draw.
If you told me beforehand China would get a point out of the match, I'd be happy, but being so close to 3 points in the last minutes and ending up with 1 is a disappointment. If China fails to qualify, many may look back at Shao's penalty as the difference. As it stands, it is the difference between China topping the group and being in their current position, 3rd. The Aussies played very physically and the refs weren't blowing the whistle, but China didn't back down, they can be proud of the result, but they still have to be kicking themselves.
For the Aussies, away draws aren't a bad thing, but most Aussie fans expected a clear victory in this one. Nothing has been said yet, but one wonders how much the impact of the altitude and the daytime start impacted their side as they looked like the lesser side for much of the match and failed to attack with regularity. Of course, the injuries they were dealing with was an important factor as well.
This really is the group of death, Qatar was able to score a home victory over Iraq, defeating them 2-0 and showing they aren't going to be pushovers in this group. Chinese coach Petrovic has made some interesting squad selections, including bringing up Jiang Ning and his consistent use of older players like Qu Bo and Xiao Zhanbo who haven't featured in the national team for many years. China's next test will be in Qatar on June 2nd and while its sure to be a fight, a win will be important for keeping China's dreams of South Africa alive.