Sports: ‘World Cup Day’ raises expectations for Chinese soccer
BEIJING – A crucial tie at the women’s World Cup and a belated scoring binge by Chinese men in a Russia 2018 qualifier have raised China’s expectations for the most popular game.
The two games held 12 hours and 11,000km apart were hailed by Chinese as “a stepping stone” to greater successes.
“They are a good omen for the Chinese soccer reform,” said a commentary by China’s leading news portal Sina after China routed Bhutan 6-0 in Thimphu on Tuesday night, 12 hours after the Chinese women advanced into the last 16 in the World Cup in Canada.
The women’s side, victims to a refereeing mistake in their opening 1-0 loss to hosts Canada, were awarded a controversial penalty in a 2-2 draw with New Zealand, which ensured a berth at the knockout stage.
Chinese back home agreed the team were lucky but they deserved a spot in last 16.
In the other side of the world, the Chinese men snatched the lopsided win over Bhutan in the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers.
Against a team of amateur players, the Chinese failed to impress until the last minute of the first half when Yang Xu opened the scoring. Yang scored two more in the second half.
“We believe China are on the right track to better performances and results,” said the Sina commentary.
China’s State Council released a soccer reform plan early this year, aimed at raising the level of soccer in the country, where poor international performances had been blamed on a history of corruption and a lack of youth programs.
“The brilliant performances by the two Chinese national teams have given us a ray of hope,” concluded the Sina commentary.