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Li Tie's focus only on China PR's next Asian Qualifiers clash against Maldives

Sharjah: China PR coach Li Tie is refusing to look beyond his side’s upcoming game with the Maldives in Sharjah on Friday after securing a 2-0 win over the Philippines in Group A that moved them closer to claiming a place in the third phase of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Second half goals from Wu Lei, from the penalty spot, and Wu Xinghan earned the Chinese a victory that took them six points clear of the Azkals with two games remaining, and wins over the Maldives and Syria will put Li Tie’s team in a strong position to keep alive hopes of a first FIFA World Cup appearance since 2002.

Syria have already qualified as Group A winners but five runners-up slots are available in the third round after Qatar won Group E. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts not playing in the next phase, an additional slot has opened up for the teams who finish second across the eight groups.

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Li Tie, however, is not thinking about the possibility of his side advancing to the third round but remains focused on the meeting with the Maldives, when the Chinese will be aiming for a repeat of their 5-0 victory over the Indian Ocean islanders in their previous clash in September 2019.

"This is a tournament system so every game is important,” said Li Tie after the game. “We will not consider the future. All we have to do is to play the next game."

China PR’s win came thanks to an improved second half performance against a resilient Philippines side who frustrated Li’s team in the opening 45 minutes and who could have opened the scoring through Mark Hartmann, only for Zhang Linpeng to clear off the line.

Li’s side were transformed in the second 45 minutes, although the former Everton midfielder would not reveal what he said to his team at half-time to encourage an uptick in their performance.

"Football is 90 minutes, so it’s difficult to evaluate the performance in the first half and the second half,” he said. “I don't want to say what we said in the locker room. I look at the 90 minutes of the players, not half.

"No game is easy. I am very satisfied with the performance in this game. All the players have played at 100 percent and I’m very satisfied with everyone's performance. Thank you to all the fans who stayed up late to watch the game and cheer for us. Thank you, everyone."

Philippines coach Scott Cooper praised his players’ performance despite missing out on securing a similar result to the 0-0 draw the Azkals recorded the last time the teams met in Group A in October 2019.

“We showed again we can control China, we didn’t give them any chances in the first half, we just lacked that little bit of fitness and we made one bad mistake in midfield that led to the penalty that opened the game up,” he said.

“We were comfortable, they weren’t creating chances. It was similar to Bacolod. We have got eight or nine players who were not here so I’m proud of my players, I think they did a very good job but good luck to China they deserved to win the game.”

Photo: AFP

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