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Goalkeeper Zeng Cheng will be pivotal to PRC’s chances of advancing


08-27-2016 15:50 BJT

If China hope to advance to the main draw of the 2018 World Cup, defense will be crucial. One of the leaders on that side of the field is goalkeeper Zeng Cheng. He figures to be in the spotlight as the PRC face South Korea when qualifying resumes Thursday. And as Damion Jones reports, the 29-year-old knows keeping the other team's shots out of the net, will go a long way toward improving his team's chances of success.

Zeng Cheng was first selected to China's national team in 2009. The then-22-year-old went on to impress the coaches and fans with a number of spectacular saves. Those performances, along with his boyish looks, made him a crowd favorite. And despite his determination to keep the ball out of the net sometimes leading to injuries, the Wuhan native insists that he won't change the way he plays.

China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

"This is a professional goalkeeper's choice. We know that if someone is trying to attack the penalty area, any goalkeeper will make the same choice. After all, our responsibility is to make saves, and prevent opponents from scoring goals. So I believe that all goalkeepers, not just me, will make the same choice -- an instinctive choice -- to ignore the danger to yourself, but focus on making the save," Zeng Cheng said.

The sport Zeng loves has brought him not just aches and pains, but also happiness and joy, with the PRC's win over Qatar to advance in World Cup Qualifying ranking among his most memorable highlights.

"For our generation, this is really a big step toward our dream. What impress me the most was that, when the news come out that we qualified, we were so happy. We were having dinner at the time, and some of us were yelling to relieve the pressure. When I was young, and I saw on TV that our national team had gotten through to the final stage of the 2002 World Cup, you have no idea what it meant to me. It shocked me. My hope is that fans can watch TV once again, and get this feeling from my generation," Zeng Cheng said.

Zeng's career honors include being named Top Goalkeeper in the Chinese Super League, and earning recognition as one of the best netminders in Asia. But he says helping China reach the main draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup would easily trump any personal accolades, and the road to that objective resumes when his team meets South Korea in Seoul on Thursday.

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