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  • Writer's pictureIan Pulczynski

Socceroos Opposition Watch: China PR

China's new strategy to make a World Cup is to naturalise players and prepare for the qualifiers with a fourteen-day training camp. They hope it will be the new experiment that breaks their 20-year long qualifying drought.

Elkeson is one of the many naturalised players within the Chinese national team. Source: Getty Images

Ranked 71st in the FIFA rankings, China does not have a strong history of World Cup qualifying.

However, with an influx of naturalised players and intense preparations, this could be their best chance yet.

China has only qualified once for the World Cup in its football history, which was in 2002.

From its last World Cup appearance, the Chinese Football Association has experimented with international football managers like José Camacho, Alain Perrin, Fabio Cannavaro and the notorious Marcelo Lippi.

China even opened its doors to plenty of global foreign football stars to help develop football in the country, including Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Hulk and Graziano Pellé.

Carlos Tevez was one of the biggest signings in Chinese football history, moving to Shanghai in 2016. Source: Getty Images

But even the best foreign players and coaches couldn't help the world's most populated country secure a ticket to a World Cup.

The qualifying failures has led to China focusing on other avenues to help them.

One of them has been naturalising players.

To increase their chances of qualifying for the World Cup, China started to naturalised foreign-born players who gained Chinese citizenship due to the number of years playing there.

One of them is prolific goalscorer Elkeson, one of Asia's elite finishers who has won numerous Chinese Super League and Asian Champions League titles.

"This is a unique moment for me, and I want to fully enjoy it and help my teammates on the field," Elkeson said in an interview with The AFC Hub on Youtube.

Other naturalised players include Brazilian-born attackers Alan and Aloísio.

Former Everton defender Tyias Browning is also included in the squad to face Australia and Japan.

Li Tie, also a former Everton player, was appointed head coach in January 2020.

China has been unbeaten in four matches, with the new manager having a 100% win rate.

Former Chinese international, Li Tie is the current manager of the Chinese national team. Source: China Daily

China defeated Guam 7-0, the Philippines 2-0, Maldives 5-0 and eventual group winners Syria 3-1 during their qualifying stage.

They scored 17 goals and conceded just once in four matches.

However, China offers more than just naturalised players.

Midfielder Wu Lei has been playing his football for Espanyol in Spain, whilst Tianyu Guo (22) and Yuning Zhang (24) have scored goals aplenty in the Chinese Super League.

Captain Xi Wu has plenty of international matches under his belt, bringing valuable experience into the side.

Yuning Zhang is a striker that could create headaches for both Australia and Japan. Source: Eurosport

With the game being moved to Doha, China started their training camp two weeks ago to help them acclimatise to the Qatari weather.

This move is just another strategy of how serious China is taking these qualifiers.

China's form and players pose a mysterious threat to Australia, especially with Elkeson, Alan, Aloísio and Zhang in the final third.

China will surely hope its foreign-born players can end 20 years of disappointment and failed experiments.

Australia vs China will kick-off on Friday 3rd September at 4am (AEDT), live on Channel 10.


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