China, In­dia score­less in friendly match

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

In a score­less 90-minute match In­dia ran its Asian ri­val China to a draw in a friendly foot­ball match yes­ter­day, spark­ing out­rage among China’s le­gions of foot­ball-ob­sessed fans. The Chi­nese na­tional team’s strug­gles were laid bare as it missed chance af­ter chance to take the game, fall­ing short of ex­pec­ta­tions for a big win at home.

It is a set­back for China’s un­bri­dled foot­balling am­bi­tions — Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is a big fan of the sport and has vowed to make the coun­try a foot­ball su­per­power. It is not the same story in cricket-mad In­dia, where foot­ball is far from the most pop­u­lar sport.

The game in Suzhou, near Shang­hai, was the first match be­tween the two Asian giants’ se­nior sides in 21 years. In­dia had not beaten China in its last 17 at­tempts. Al­though China con­trolled the pitch yes­ter­day, its top 11 play­ers were un­able to put away a goal.

“This match shows there are still a lot of is­sues to sort out,” China’s state tele­vi­sion an­nouncer said at the close. But both sides missed chances. On one set piece from roughly 25 me­tres out, four Chi­nese de­fend­ers left In­dian team cap­tain Su­nil Ch­hetri un­cov­ered on the far post, saved by his mis­placed touch that sent the ball soar­ing over the cross­bar.

In the sec­ond half, Chi­nese mid­fielder Yu Hai had In­dia’s goalie be­hind him with the ball inches from the net, but was still un­able to get it across the goalline. China and In­dia to­gether ac­count for more than a third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, but in foot­ball terms they are min­nows, of­ten beaten by coun­tries a frac­tion of their size.

In­dia is 97th in FIFA’s rank­ings and China 76 — sand­wiched be­tween Zam­bia and Le­banon — un­der­lin­ing how far adrift both are from the global soc­cer elite. China’s foot­ball-crazed fans did not turn out in droves to see the match, with row af­ter row of seats empty in the 30,000-plus ca­pac­ity sta­dium.

But fans piled on the na­tional team’s Twit­ter-like Weibo ac­count af­ter the match, de­nounc­ing the team that has be­come a na­tional dis­grace to many. “Does China’s na­tional team have any face left?” com­mented one user. An­other ad­vo­cated turn­ing the vast sums spent on foot­ball to other pur­suits like build­ing semi­con­duc­tors. “This col­li­sion of China’s na­tional team with In­dia’s, onethird of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, shows that even among 2.7bn you can’t find one good foot­baller,” said one.

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