China boss Zhu looking for first win

SOCCER revolutions in the People's Republic of China have seen many false dawns, but newly appointed national coach Zhu Guanghu is determined to start the re-building process at Lansdowne Road tonight.

Under the much travelled Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic, China reached their first World Cup finals three years ago in South Korea and Japan. They flattered to deceive losing their three opening Group games against Costa Rica (0-2), Brazil (0-4) and Turkey (0-3).

Exit Milutinovic to be replaced by former Dutch international Arie Haan, but disaster struck when they failed to reach next summer's World Cup finals in Germany.

Haan's team failed to reach the final Asian qualifying Group even though they defeated Hong Kong 7-0 in their last match in November. It proved to be a hollow victory as Kuwait, who beat the Chinese 1-0 edged Haan's team on goal difference for the place in the Asian World Cup Group finals.

The Dutch manager was given the boot to be replaced by home-based coach Zhu, who had guided Shenzhen Jianlibao to the inaugural Chinese Super League title last season.

China have now no major title to focus their attention on until the start of the 2007 Asian Cup qualifying campaign which gets underway next year. Currently 57th in the World rankings, Zhu will give youth its chance.

With Manchester City winger Sun Jihai ruled out by injury, the only European-based player in the squad which trained at Lansdowne Road last night was Shao Jiayi.

He plays for 1860 Munich and was last season a team-mate of Irish Under 21 international Joe Hendrick before Hendrick signed for Darlington during the summer after 1860 were relegated.

Zhu, only appointed at the start of this month, took charge for the first time in Saturdays 3-0 defeat to Spain.

It was a satisfactory work-out for Spain ahead of tomorrow night's crucial World Cup encounter against Serbia/Montenegro in Belgrade.

"It was disappointing to lose to Spain and it will be difficult against Ireland tonight. But these are the sort of matches we need if we are to progress in the world rankings," said Zhu.

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