(From Chin Daily/Agencies)
Yang Xu scored four times as China hammered an almost entirely amateur Bhutan 12-0 Thursday night to keep their World Cup hopes alive before a do-or-die battle with Hong Kong next week.
Host China was totally dominant as Mei Fang’s goal at the 10th minute opened the floodgates in a Group C qualifier before rain-soaked fans in Central China’s Changsha, Hunan province.
China was already leading by seven goals at half time but was way short of its record victory, a 19-0 win over Guam in an Asian Cup qualifier in 2000.
Apart from Yang’s four-goal brilliance, Yu Dabao, Yu Hanchao and Wang Yongpo each netted twice while Zhang Xizhe also added to the tally.
The rout was largely foreseeable before kick-off as China had already sealed a 6-0 win in the first-leg when Alain Perrin’s men travelled to the neighboring country in June.
The future for China, despite this victory, remains uncertain as it is currently only third in the standings, three points behind Hong Kong, which secured a 1-0 win over Maldives Thursday. Qatar tops the group with 15 points.
In Asian World Cup qualifier, only the winner of each of the eight groups can find a place in the final round. They will be joined by the best four runners-up.
Those 12 nations will compete for the continent’s four automatic spots at the 2018 Russia World Cup.
Head coach Perrin rested the majority of his regular starters, most from Chinese league champion Guangzhou Evergrande, including star playmaker and captain Zheng Zhi.
The lineup change sent a clear message that Perrin’s squad is conserving energy for the decisive match when they travel to Hong Kong on Nov 17. The two teams drew 0-0 in September.
Perrin called Huang Bowen and Zhang Xizhe into the squad, seeking a change of lineup. The Frenchman had long shunned Zhang, who has returned to Beijing Guo’an after a bungled short stint with Germany’s Wolfsburg.
China has qualified for the World Cup finals only once, in 2002, when the tournament was co-hosted by East Asian neighbors South Korea and Japan.
It failed to win a single group game, conceding nine goals in the process while failing to score even once.