Relaxed, but ready to fight

Updated: 2011-09-02 08:01

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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KUNMING, Yunnan - A more carefree attitude has reappeared at the Chinese national soccer team's training sessions, reminding people of coach Bora Milutinovic, who led China to its only World Cup finals in 2002 with his relatively laidback philosophy.

Relaxed, but ready to fight
This time the man in charge is Jose Antonio Camacho, who replaced Chinese coach Gao Hongbo half a month ago.

The Spaniard also naturally wants to replicate Milutinovic's success, and will by no means be satisfied by anything less than a triumph in his debut with the team against Singapore in Kunming on Friday.

"I can't predict the score, but I believe, from the very first minute on the pitch, all of my players will show their eagerness for victory and play their best," said Camacho, who only had 10 days to prepare the team for its first game of the second phase of 2014 World Cup qualifying.

"Singapore only has one kind of tactic, which is to pass all the balls to No 9 (Aleksandar Duric, 41), and what we should do is compress his space, and I'm confident that my players will do this job," said the 56-year-old, who led Spain to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup.

The change of head coach has also seen the return to the squad of several veterans, including Li Weifeng, Sun Xiang and Zheng Zhi, who had fallen out of favor with Gao.

The 32-year-old Li has even taken back the captain's armband from regular holder Du Wei, 38 months after he last led the team.

Li, who distinguished himself as one of the best centerbacks in Asia during his days with the South Korean club Suwon Bluewings, was only called up to the national team once during Gao's tenure, when the former coach needed to organize two national lineups with 50 players to play three friendlies against Honduras and New Zealand at Wuhan and away against Costa Rica at the same time in March.

Li said he didn't expect to become the captain again and chose to keep a low profile off the field and prove himself on the pitch.

"I never thought of becoming the team's captain again after several years, and I would like to thank all my teammates and the coach for their trust in me," said Li, who has played 106 international A-class matches for the national team, the most in the squad.

"I'd better not say too much now, because what I need to do more (for the team) is on the pitch," he said.

The veteran, who emerged as one of the national team's starting players during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, also said on his microblog that the new coach is beginning to bring changes to the team - like what Milutinovic did before.

"Ten years ago, Milutinovic's motto 'attitude is everything' made the difference to Chinese soccer and guided us to the World Cup. Nowadays, our coach is again changing our understanding of soccer," said Li, who plays in the Chinese Super League with Tianjin Teda.

Relaxed, but ready to fight

"It's not by accident that Japan has become the No 1 team in Asia and is ranked 18 in the world. Our real gap with Japan is we don't know what to do, how to run when we don't have the ball in matches it's not all just about skill, and I believe our coach will help us to make changes," he said.

According to the Chinese media, after the home game against Singapore, South China city Shenzhen will replace Kunming and become the home field of the China team.

It will host China's preliminaries against Iraq on Oct 11 and Jordan on Feb 29, as well as one friendly against United Arab Emirates on Oct 7, local reports claim.

China Daily