CHINA TOPIX

Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Football: China PR relishes underdog tag against South Korea in upcoming World Cup qualifying match

China PR head coach Gao Hongbo

(Photo : Getty Images) The Chinese men’s national football team, led by head coach Gao Hongbo, is said to be relishing the underdog tag against the Taegeuk Warriors as they try to qualify to their first-ever World Cup since 2002.

China PR will face South Korea at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Thursday to kick off the team's campaign in the third and final round of 2018 FIFA World Cup AFC qualifiers on the road.

The Chinese men's national football team is said to be relishing the underdog tag against the Taegeuk Warriors as they try to qualify to their first-ever World Cup since 2002.

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Global Times noted that it was in the very same stadium in the South Korean capital city that Team Dragon played its last "World Cup match in 2002, a 0-3 loss to Turkey, as China ended its one and only World Cup campaign without so much as a goal".

The report said, though, that "a lot has changed since then" ever since Chinese president Xi Jinping himself initiated the advancement of Chinese football with the long term goal of hosting, participating, and winning the World Cup in the future.

The Chinese Super League and its owners and backers had been investing millions in the past year alone to show full support to the president's vision and this Asian World Cup qualifying tournament could be the first test whether Chinese football is actually benefiting from all the expenditures.

Head-to-head, the Chinese are overwhelming underdogs to the South Koreans with the latter winning 29 times in their past 30 meetings.

However, that lone 3-0 Team Dragon win over the Red Devils came during current manager Gao Hongbo's first tenure as head coach of the squad.

Eleven players of manager Uli Stielike's side is currently suited up in the China top flight as Asian imports, including four of their seven backfield players. Six of his players, meanwhile, are competing in the more cut-throat settings in Europe.

South Koreans teams have also dominated the AFC Champions League history, but Guangzhou Evergrande, through the help of its foreign players, have won two of the last three titles.

Those foreigners are not included in the World Cup qualifiers, though, and so the Chinese will have to rely on their locals to get the job done.

Meanwhile, Coach Stielike is reportedly not taking lightly the Chinese squad no matter how stacked the odds are in their favor.

"There are no easy teams in the final round. China have recently pulled up their FIFA rankings and they are a competitive team," said Stielike, as per Yonhap News. "We don't have enough time, but on the match day, we will have to play like a team that has been working together for three months."

"Some players are with the team for the first time, but the rest of them have played together for a long time," he added.

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