China’s growth has been slow but steady. Its debut in the World Cup is another step forward. Though little is expected from the Asian country, China, ranked 17th in the FIH rankings, will hope to produce an upset or two.
The country has improved significantly in recent years, making steady progress in the world rankings with a young squad. Its team for Bhubaneswar has an average age of less than 25 years.
Du Talake, at 27 one of the team’s most experienced players, is a prolific goal-scorer off penalty corners, and scored five goals in the 2017 Asia Cup in Dhaka, where it became one of the last teams to qualify for the World Cup. Its place was confirmed on October 21 after South Korea drew 1-1 with Malaysia, a result that put the latter into the final against India. India then defeated Malaysia in the summit clash.
According to FIH regulations, the team that wins its continental qualifier automatically makes it to the World Cup. However, host India and Malaysia, by finishing fourth at the Hero Hockey World League Semifinals in London earlier this year, had already qualified for the showpiece event. China grabbed the next available spot with an eighth-place finish in the London in June 2017. South Korea had finished ninth.
Winning the Asia Cup 2017 was South Korea's last chance to grab a World Cup berth, but the four-time winner’s dream ended in a disappointing manner.
No doubt this will be momentous World Cup for China, which qualified for the first time in its history. What can one expect from a team whose best effort at the international level has been a silver medal in the 2006 Doha Asian Games? At best, China can hope to put up a tough fight against Ireland. On its debut, can China surpass itself?
Squad: Guo Xiaoping, Ao Zhiwei, Guan Quyang, Ao Suozhu, E. Wenhui, Ao Yang, Meng Dihao, Su Jun, Meng Nan, Su Wenlin, Su Lixing, Du Chen, Du Talake, Guo Zixiang, E. Wenlong, Wang Caiyu, Ao Weibao and Guo Jin.
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