China's Under-21 men's national football team beat Thailand 1-0 in the first round of CFA Team China Chongqing Three Gorges Bank Cup International Youth Football Tournament on Thursday in Wanzhou, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
Four U-21 national teams – China, Thailand, Mexico and Iceland – are participating in the tournament whose main object is to help China's new head coach Guus Hiddink observe players ahead of Olympic qualification in the AFC U-23 Championship next year.
Liu Ruofan, who was called up from U-19 squad, scored the opening goal in the ninth minute near the penalty mark after taking a pass from Chen Binbin from the right line of the penalty area. China kept the slender lead through to the end despite moments of pressure from the Thais.
Liu Ruofan (C) of China in action during the match against Thailand in the CFA International Youth Football Tournament in Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, November 15, 2018. /VCG Photo
The 72-year-old coach carries the hope of millions of Chinese football fans, but he knows well that any "unrealistic" preset goal would be wrong. However, he still accepted the invitation from the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and got in charge of the U-21 side on September 10.
At that time, China U-21 were led by Shen Xiangfu and won the runner-up place in a Qujing four-nation tournament. But China won over Myanmar 1-0, tied 1-1 with Uzbekistan, and got another 1-1 draw with Tajikistan in an unfinished game due to a heavy rain.
Guus Hiddink of the Netherlands, current manager of China U-21 national football team, sits on the bench during the match against Thailand, Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, November 15, 2018. /VCG Photo
The first match for Hiddink was a friendly on October 17 in the Netherlands, with a team from Dutch club SBV Vitesse beating China U-21 team 5-1.
During the AFC U-19 Championship in late October, Hiddink and the former U-21 head coach Sun Jihai went to Indonesia to watch the tournament, but the Chinese side was knocked out at the group stage, even though they had beaten Thailand and Indonesia in the latter's invitation one month before.
The qualification for the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand in 2020, will be launched in March next year, and China has been grouped with Malaysia, Laos and the Philippines. The championships will decide which teams could qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
For the Chongqing tournament, China side's other two opponents are Mexico and Iceland. The Mexican U-21 defeated China 3-1 in the group stage of Toulon Tournament this year and took the runner-up in June. China will face Iceland and Mexico respectively at the weekend.
Cover: Guus Hiddink and Sun Jihai, former Chinese legend football player and current head of Chinese coaches for China U-21 national football team, Chongqing, China, November 15, 2018. /VCG Photo
[Source : 19-Nov-2018, Li Chenqi, CGTN]