China was presented with a golden opportunity to win yesterday's 2010 World Cup qualifier match against Australia in Kunming, but it was Aussie goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, not China's Shao Jiayi (邵佳一), who would emerge the hero after blocking Shao's 88th-minute spot kick – the match resulting in a 0:0 draw.
After yesterday's 2:0 upset of Iraq by Qatar, Australia has four points and leads Asia's 'group of death', with China in third place behind Qatar with two points. China has four more matches left during the qualifying stage and still has a chance of qualifying.
Aside from maintaining Australia's leading position in its group, yesterday's draw was a moral victory for the Socceroos, who went in to the match with five of its starters including Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill sitting out due to injuries. Australia was also concerned about the effects of Kunming's 1,900-meter altitude on both its players and the ball - Australia coach Pim Verbeek was critical of the choice of Kunming to host the match, saying his players had little time to adjust to the altitude and expressing concern about the possibility of 'floating balls'.
Ironically, it was China – which had been training in Kunming for weeks – that had problems with floating balls. In the second half China had several opportunities near the Australian goal that were wasted when passes sailed over the heads of open men.
With four goal attempts compared to Australia's one, China was increasing its pressure on the Australian goal, culminating in a penalty kick after goalkeeper Schwarzer was hit with a foul on Qu Bo (曲波) in the penalty area. The thunderous noise generated by the home crowd vanished when Schwarzer stopped Shao's kick with his feet, then pounced upon the ball. Shortly afterward, Australia's David Carney had an opportunity to win the match, but was unable to redirect Mark Bresciano's cross into the Chinese goal.
After the game, Shao apologized for missing the spot kick, which, had it made it past Schwarzer, would have likely given China a victory, putting it atop the group with four points.
Asia's 20 teams are divided into five groups, with the 10 winners and runners-up reaching the final group stage. Four teams will advance from the final group stage to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with the two next-best teams playing for the chance to play the winner of the Oceania group for another berth.
"I truly feel it was regrettable, I'm sorry to everyone," Shao told Chinese media, "As it was, we totally had an opportunity to win this game, but the spot kick didn't go in... now all I can do is apologize to my teammates and the fans."
"You saw it today, we gave it our all," he continued, "You could say we had a definite advantage – during the game there were several opportunities, it's a pity we were unable to seize them."
Shao Jiayi image: clzg.cn© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.