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Football: Asian Cup, Group B – China charge into quarter-finals

China (left) beat Uzbekistan 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

China (left) beat Uzbekistan 2-1 to reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 14, 2015: China coach Alain Perrin promised to celebrate reaching the AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals after his charges beat Uzbekistan 2-1 in Brisbane on Wednesday to seal a spot in the second round. Saudi Arabia beat DPR Korea 4-1 to join Uzbekistan on three points and the two teams will battle for the second spot in Group B on Sunday.

 

On a night of high drama, Qatar 2011 semi-finalists Uzbekistan drew first blood midway through the opening half through Odil Ahmedov. However, China turned the tables on Mirdjalal Kasimov’s side after the break with goals from Wu Xi and substitute Sun Ke, to grab the three points and advance to the knockout phase.

 

“When we go back to the team hotel, we will open two bottles of champagne,” said Perrin. “After our first win (against Saudi Arabia on Saturday), we celebrated just among the coaching staff, but tonight I want the players to join us. We played a beautiful match and now we move to the knockout phase. I thought we would have to play all three games before securing qualification, but now we are through.”

 

Perrin’s men had every right to be over the moon, coming from behind to trip up Uzbekistan and maintain a perfect record after their first two group games. China wrap up their first round campaign on Sunday against DPR Korea in Canberra.

 

Wu Xi, whose 55th-minute equaliser galvanized the Chinese attack en route to the three points, said: “All the players were very excited in the dressing room, singing songs and high-fiving. Our interpreter was dancing on a table and fell into an ice bucket full of water. All his clothes were wet. The pressure is off us a bit now that we are through to the knockout stages. We can relax just a little for our next match.”

 

A draw with DPR Korea will be good enough for China to win the group, regardless of the result of the game between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. Australia and Korea Republic have both qualified from Group A and will square off for first place on Saturday in Brisbane.

 

Zhang Linpeng, the Guangzhou Evergrande defender, said: “Whoever we play in the quarter-final will be very difficult. Korea Republic have two defenders who play in the Chinese Super League and they know everything about our team. Australia will be very difficult as well. We know they are strong.”

 

Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin Olaroiu was relieved after his decision to adopt a risky attacking strategy paid off in Wednesday’s win over DPR Korea at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, as the three-time winners kept alive their quarter-final hopes.

 

Knowing defeat would result in a second consecutive group-stage exit, Olaroiu brought in full-backs Abdulla Al Dossary and Hassan Maaz following the opening 1-0 loss to China, while Mohammed Al Sahlawi joined Naif Hazazi in a new-look two-man forward line. And with Al Sahlawi scoring twice in the second half after Hazazi had equalised before half-time, Saudi Arabia are still in the hunt to qualify from Group B.

 

Source: Shintaro Kano / Andrew Mullen / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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