China out to prove World Cup run no fluke
Coach Gao cites country's Olympic women's volleyball champs as role models
SOUTH KOREA v CHINA
Ambitious China are out to prove that reaching the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifying was no fluke when they take on bogey side South Korea today.
China scraped through thanks to their shock 2-0 win over Qatar and the Philippines' almighty 3-2 upset of North Korea on the last day of round two.
It means that China, who boast Asia's most expensive league and whose tycoons are snapping up football assets around the globe, are within shouting distance of the World Cup in Russia.
The top two in each of Asia's two groups of six will qualify for the World Cup, while the third-placed sides will face each other for the right to play an intercontinental play-off.
Perennial under-achievers China have only ever reached one World Cup, in 2002, but they have set their sights on hosting and even winning the competition.
First they will need to upset the odds against South Korea, who have reached nine World Cups - and have lost just once to China in the past 30 years.
Coach Gao Hongbo said underdogs China were taking heart from their women's volleyball team, who upset Serbia to win the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: China's women's volleyball team surprised everyone, after they defeated Serbia to win the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS
"Everyone in Korean football thinks that, within Chinese football, we lack fighting spirit and we give up easily," Gao said, according to the ESPN FC website.
"But I'm hoping this time we can show an improvement in this area.
"China's women's volleyball team won the Olympic gold medal as underdogs in Rio. They fought with solidarity and realised all of their potential.
"They are the best role models for us and we have been inspired greatly by them. Now it is our show."
Some 30,000 Chinese fans are expected at Seoul World Cup Stadium, but hosts South Korea will start as strong favourites after they breezed through the second round.
"There are no easy teams in the final round," warned South Korea's coach Uli Steilike, according to Yonhap news agency.
"China have recently pulled up their Fifa rankings and they are a competitive team."
Coach Gao Hongbo BH FILE PHOTO
Meanwhile, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou wants a handsome victory when his team meet Iraq in today's 2018 World Cup Group B qualifier in Perth.
The reigning Asian champions won seven out of eight group matches, with the only loss away to Jordan, to seal top spot from their group.
"We have to win your home games as it will be tough to pick up points on the road," said Postecoglou.
AUSSIES RARING TO GO
"With a scrappy victory, you get three points, but it doesn't show the road ahead is going to be where you want it to be. I still want us to perform strongly. I want to win, but also play well so we have confidence in what we're doing."
At Postecoglou's disposal are 23 fit players, including 21 who ply their trade abroad.
"If somebody can try tell me what my strongest 11 is then good luck to them, but it'd be a guess," Postecoglou said.
"I have four or five starting 11s that I could put out tomorrow and I'd feel confident about all of them getting the job done."
Iraq's squad feature a number of players from their Rio Olympics campaign where the team were eliminated in the group stage after three draws, including one against hosts and gold-medallists Brazil.
Postecoglou said his team, who will next meet United Arab Emirates on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, have done their homework on Iraq.
"We've been following Iraq since the draw. We know everything we need to know about them," the manager said. - Wire Services.
2018 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS (ASIA)
- Australia V Iraq
- Japan V Uae
- Iran V Qatar
- South Korea V China
- Uzbekistan V Syria
- Saudi Arabia V Thailand