This undated file photo shows Li Xiaopeng, the current head coach of Chinese Super League club Wuhan FC. (PAN YULONG / XINHUA)
TOKYO - China's newly-appointed national football team head coach Li Xiaopeng said on Monday that his main goal is to keep the team's FIFA World Cup qualification hopes alive, as he prepares to make his debut in the dugout on Jan 27 in a qualifier against Japan.
Apart from Luo Guofu and A Lan, who reached Japan on Monday morning, all the other 24 players took part in the team's first training session in Tokyo. "Most of the players are in good shape and are capable of playing our next match. I need to observe Jiang Guangtai, Luo and A Lan, as well as Wu Lei through one or two training sessions since they just joined up with the team."
With four games remaining in the final round of the Asian qualifiers, China now ranks fifth in the six-team Group B with five points, and needs at least a draw against Japan to keep alive its slim hopes of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup
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Due to a flight cancelation, Luo and A Lan had been stuck in Amsterdam airport for nearly 24 hours, and Li paid tribute to their commitment. "They want to help the team and have traveled across the planet from Brazil to join us, which will definitely strengthen our confidence. It is normal to face problems when you travel during the pandemic, but the final result is good," he said.
With four games remaining in the final round of the Asian qualifiers, China now ranks fifth in the six-team Group B with five points, and needs at least a draw against Japan to keep alive its slim hopes of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
"My tactics are how to keep our dream alive after the match with Japan. We know Japan well and they have many good players. We need to focus on ourselves and play our game," the 47-year-old coach added.
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China's star forward Wu noted on Monday that his team must play better than in its last match against Japan last September, when China lost 1-0. "We were not satisfied with that match as we had no chances. We need to learn from the previous match. No matter what the result is, we must play with fighting spirit. We need to play our style of football and try our best."
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