Red-faced China held by debutants Tajikistan at Asian Cup

AFP , Saturday 13 Jan 2024

China opened their Asian Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against debutants Tajikistan on Saturday, heaping more embarrassment on a country rocked by a football graft scandal at home.

China
China's defender #03 Zhu Chenjie heads the ball in but the goal was disallowed during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group A football match between China and Tajikistan at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha on January 13, 2024. Photo: AFP

 

Finalists in 2004, China were largely outplayed by the 106th-ranked team in the world but were left fuming after a late header from Zhu Chenjie was ruled out for offside following a VAR intervention.

Boos from the China fans rang out at the end.

The game in Doha took place just days after former China coach Li Tie appeared on national television to confess he paid bribes to get the job and was involved in match-fixing.

The former Everton midfielder's confession was part of a crackdown on football corruption that triggered the downfall of at least 10 senior Chinese Football Association officials.

China's squad in Qatar were required to watch the television programme, Chinese state media said.

It evidently did them little good against a Tajikistan side who created numerous scoring chances but were let down by their wayward finishing.

China, ranked 79 in the world, thought they had snatched victory when Zhu rose to thump a header past goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov from a corner with less than 10 minutes remaining.

But the goal was chalked off when a VAR check ruled that China's former England youth defender Tyias Browning was offside on the goal-line.

Tajikistan had China on the back foot in the first half and were unlucky not to head into the break with the lead.

Alisher Dzhalilov went close midway through the first half, letting fly with a fierce shot that whistled just wide of Yan Junling's post.

Dzhalilov again tried his luck with a spectacular volley as the second half got under way.

China began to come alive as the game entered its closing stages but Zhu's header was their last real chance.

Hosts and defending champions Qatar beat Lebanon 3-0 on Friday in the opening game in Group A.

President Xi Jinping wants China to win the World Cup but they have made the competition only once, in 2002, and were beaten 3-0 at home by Son Heung-min's South Korea in a World Cup qualifier in November.

Then they suffered humiliation in an Asian Cup warm-up match, beaten 2-1 by Hong Kong, the southern Chinese city of 7.5 million people.

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