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China set for tough match-up in opening contest in Group A of World Cup


08-25-2016 15:44 BJT

In Shenyang, China's national football team has started preparing for the next stage of 2018 World Cup Qualifying. The PRC will face South Korea next Thursday in Seoul, in their opening match in Group A. Since the squad barely squeaked into this phase of the competition, expectations are not high, but as Damion Jones reports, the Chinese players are looking to prove their detractors wrong again.

With one week left before China's Group A opener against South Korea, the players know the stakes are high, and the CFA has laid out an enticing incentive -- 60 million yuan if the team reaches the Main Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Forward Jiang Ning said, "It's very different from the past. We're traveling in business class and staying in nice hotels. We know many eyes are on us. We will do our utmost to live up to expectations."

Some members of the roster have yet to report to training, as they're still busy with their clubs. But those already in Shenyang have two main priorities -- get acclimated to their surroundings, and study up on the Taeguk Warriors.

Midfielder Ding Haifeng said, "We have been spending a lot of time analyzing their statistics. We watch videos of their games, so that everyone has a clear idea of their strategies."

Jiang said, "I think we should focus on our defense, because we're playing at their home stadium. We also need to strengthen our physical abilities, and we should prepare for any difficulties, because South Korea is a fierce team."

After visiting South Korea on September 1st, China will host Iran five days later. In October, Gao Hongbo's men will entertain Syria and travel to Uzbekistan, before taking on Qatar in November. Following a break, the Third Round of Qualifying resumes with five more matches in 2017.

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