Soccer-China's Li wants home return to give players confidence boost
By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - China coach Li Tie wants his players to experience the confidence boost of playing their Asian World Cup qualifiers in front of their own supporters as they prepare to return home after a challenging two-month stint in the Middle East.
The former Everton midfielder takes his squad back to China on Wednesday after witnessing the impact of a partisan crowd when his side lost 3-2 to Saudi Arabia in front of more than 50,000 fans at Jeddah's King Abdullah Sport City.
China have yet to play on home soil in the final phase of the continent's World Cup qualifiers due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but Li is hoping that will soon change.
"We really want to play our home games in front of the Chinese fans, it will be a great motivation to our players," Li said after his side's third loss in four games.
The Chinese, who are attempting to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since their debut appearance in 2002, have played all four of their matches so far on foreign soil.
Pandemic restrictions in China have disrupted the team's preparations, forcing Li and his squad to base themselves in the Gulf since August and cede home advantage in their games against Japan and Vietnam.
China are scheduled to play their next two games, against Oman and Australia, at home in November but no decision has yet been reached on where those matches will be played.
While they won against Vietnam last week, China lost to the Japanese as well as to Australia and Saudi Arabia and Li believes a lack of match sharpness is hurting his side's World Cup hopes.
"My team need to play more high-quality friendly matches and all the players have to adapt to the fast tempo of the final round (of) World Cup qualifiers," Li said.
"We will work very hard to fight for better results in the following matches."
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021. Click For Restrictions -