China boss Maddaloni urges fans to become 12th man at AFC U-23 Championship 2018
Guangzhou: China PR U-23 national team head coach Massimiliano Maddaloni hasurged fans to fill the stands and cheer his side to victory in January’s home AFC U-23 Championship.
Speaking exclusively to the-AFC.com, the call comes in reaction to the discovery of China’s group stage opponents, revealed in Tuesday’s impressive draw ceremony in Changzhou, which will host all three of their group stage matches.
The hosts will meet Qatar, Uzbekistan and Oman in Group A, a difficult proposition according to former Juventus and Guangzhou Evergrande assistant coach Maddaloni.
“I think the draw is very tough. In this draw, all of the 16 teams are strong,” he said from Guangzhou.
“I think Qatar are one of the best teams in the competition, and they have many players who played in the national team during qualifying for Russia (2018).
“Uzbekistan; we played them recently and they are also very strong, so it will be difficult, but we are playing at home, and we are confident of qualifying for the next round.”
Maddaloni (pictured above, right), who is also the assistant coach to Marcelo Lippi’s Chinese senior national team, outlined his team’s extensive preparations, which he believes will have them fully prepared for the tournament opener against Oman on January 9.
“In November we will have an Under-23 tournament in China, and then in December the senior national team will play in a tournament (the EAFF E-1 Football Championship) against Japan, Korea Republic and DPR Korea, which will give some of our young guys a chance to meet the best in Asia,” he explained.
“After that, the Under-23 squad will go to Dubai for almost two weeks, and play three friendlies, then we will go to Changzhou.”
The richly-experienced 51-year-old Italian then called on Chinese fans to get behind their team, as they look to become the first host nation to lift the AFC U-23 trophy on home soil.
“For us, this tournament is a good chance to play in China in front of our supporters,” he said.
“For the Chinese (senior) national team during the World Cup qualifiers, for every match the stadium was full, and that’s something we want to repeat with the Under-23 team.
“We’re looking forward to having a full stadium in every match, and the crowd can make it 12 players versus 11.”
The 2018 AFC U-23 Championship begins in Changzhou on January 9, with the final on January 27.