news from asia

China aim for fresh start in Asian Cup opener

January 13, 2009

China will aim to start the new year afresh with victory in their opening Asian Cup Group D qualifier with Syria on Wednesday.

China endured a miserable 2008, failing to advance to the final round of World Cup qualification, which resulted in the departure of coach Vladimir Petrovic.

Yin Tiesheng took charge on a caretaker basis last month and is determined to start with a win.

"Our goal is clear - we are coming to chase a good result rather than to give a good display of our best football," said Yin. "It's the first official game for us in 2009 and we want to have a good start."

Coach Fajr Ibrahim believes Syria can triumph at Allepo International Stadium.

"We hope that we can put on a good show and get a good start in the qualifiers," he said. "We have studied China and watched their games when they came to play friendlies in West Asia."

Syria warmed up for the match with friendly draws against Saudi Arabia and Bahrain last month, but Ibrahim wished he had longer to prepare his squad.

"We're under a lot of pressure as we want to win but we didn't have a long preparation period," he said. "We didn't have enough time to group the players together before the qualifiers."

Elsewhere in Group D, Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto has demanded his side build on their success in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup when they face Lebanon at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.

"We have to get back to earth after winning the Asean trophy," said Calisto, who was awarded a two-year contract extension after the victory over Thailand.

"My players cannot keep thinking about the Suzuki Cup but they have to keep moving on to face bigger challenges ahead."

Lebanon coach Emile Rustom admits his side enter the contest as underdogs.

"They are a good team and it will be a tough match," he said. "We have to focus completely on the match from the beginning or we will have only a 50% chance of winning."