Coach urges China to 'play with passion' in World Cup qualifiers

70-year-old Ivankovic says ‘I always require my team to play with passion and attacking football’

AFP March 20, 2024


New China coach Branko Ivankovic said Wednesday that his men must "play with passion" as they embark on two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Singapore.

The Croat replaced Serbia's Aleksandar Jankovic last month after China's dismal Asian Cup where they failed to score a goal and went out in the group phase.

China have not reached the World Cup since their lone appearance in 2002.

Back-to-back wins against Singapore, away on Thursday and in Tianjin on Tuesday, will put China in a strong position to progress from a group that also contains South Korea and Thailand.

"I always require my team to play with passion and attacking football," said the 70-year-old Ivankovic, who takes charge of China for the first time.

"Modern football doesn't restrict you to a certain formation and players have techniques and qualities to adapt their game.

"Basically, what they have to do is to just try to execute my football philosophy."

China are second in Group C after a 2-1 win in Thailand and a 3-0 home defeat to South Korea. The top two in the group will progress to the next stage on the road to 2026.

Ivankovic is not taking anything for granted against Singapore, who have lost both games so far but are also under a new coach, Tsutomu Ogura from Japan.

"Maybe we are favourites, but that means nothing because it depends on our performance on the pitch," said Ivankovic, who led Iran to World Cup qualification in 2006.

"I expect tomorrow will be a hard game and I have prepared my players in such a way.

"I have watched Singapore's last three games, but it may mean nothing because they have a new coach with new ideas and new philosophies."

Ivankovic had his first look at the squad during an intensive 10-day camp in Shenzhen before travelling to Singapore.

"The team is relatively healthy," he said, adding that he expects China's Brazil-born striker Elkeson to play some part in Thursday's game despite doubts over his fitness.


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