CANBERRA (AFP) – China coach Alain Perrin Saturday played down his side’s chances at the Asian Cup as he attempted to dampen rising expectations after two wins out of two games so far.
China are already assured of finishing top of Group B after their best start to the tournament in 27 years, but Perrin insisted his team remain outsiders.
“I think our team are not the best at this tournament,” the Frenchman said ahead of Sunday’s final group game against North Korea in Canberra.
“But even although we are not the best we will challenge and try to beat our opponents,” he added. The Chinese will top of Group B irrespective of Sunday’s result, following their 1-0 win against Saudi Arabia and 2-1 upset of Uzbekistan.
The fast start has been a surprise from a team known as a “sleeping giant” of football and which is yet to win the Asian Cup, despite qualifying 11 times in a row.
“Before we came here to play in the tournament somebody asked me what was my target and I told him my target was to win the first match,” Perrin said. “So for me the most important thing is to focus on the next match. For the trophy, the final match is far away.”
He is expected to rest several key players in Sunday’s game, ahead of China’s quarter-final in Brisbane — scene of both their wins so far — on Thursday.
“I’m very happy that we had 17 players involved in the first two matches. Football is not just about 11 players, we must have more players involved,” Perrin explained.
“I think the match against North Korea is a very good opportunity to have more players take part in this tournament.”
China have been runners-up twice in the Asian Cup and last reached the knock-out stages when they hosted the event in 2004, but Perrin is refusing to get carried away.
“As professional footballers we must always be ready to face the challenges, so tomorrow we will try to play our best game and get the three points,” he said. North Korea will be playing for nothing but pride after their opening defeats to Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia consigned them to a group-stage exit.