By Samindra Kunti in Doha
May 12 – China coach Aleksandar Jankovic, speaking on the sidelines of the 2023 Asian Cup draw, said the future of China’s national team looks bright, but that preparation for the Asian Cup will be key to enjoying a good tournament where they face Qatar, Lebanon and Tajikistan in the Group A.
The Serbian was coach of China’s U-23 team for four and a half years before taking on the role of senior manager.
“It’s a long road behind us preparing for the Asian games,” said Jankovic. “This group of young players if they play a good competition, if they show up in a good way during the Asian Games in Hangzhou in China, can claim their ticket for the national team.
“We have to prove in Hangzhou that this U-23 team is the future of Chinese football. Of course, we have good players in the national team and in the future, it is supposed to be a good mix of players to compete in the World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Cup.”
Chinese football has faced a myriad of problems in recent years with a financial collapse among the clubs, isolation because of the coronavirus, and consequently withdrawal from hosting the Asian Cup. The boom that was once promised through massive investment in star players and youth development never materialised.
“The league has been played in different circumstances,” said Jankovic. “Now, the league is back to a normal mode. So we try to adapt, try to take the maximum from the situation. It was not an easy period for China, but now we are back. (Not hosting the tournament) was one of the issues from the previous period. We know the reasons so we won’t dwell on that.”
Instead, Jankovic wants to focus on the preparations for the continental finals. In the last international window, China played New Zealand in a doubleheader of friendlies and he wants more exposure to strong teams ahead of the kick-off in January.
“For us, New Zealand was a precious experienced,” explained Jankovic. “Contact with high-intensity football is very, very important. We will arrange a lot of games from now until the beginning of the Asian Cup. So thinking about problems is always interesting for the media, but I am focused on the solution, so I have focused on the future. That’s why I am happy to see our players performing well in the league. And also we saw a lot of good things in the previous games. We saw of course some bad things we have to correct. And that’s why I am especially excited to approach the games in June.”
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