Gervinho

The Big Chinese Takeaway Should Be Taken Seriously

The latest English transfer window may have closed, but where one door, or window, closes another one opens, and the Chinese Super League is making one hell of an impact in Europe.

Eyebrows have been raised by the big-name additions of Ramires from Chelsea, Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk who was a target for Liverpool and Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez who all left for China for £25 million, £38 million and £31 million respectively.

Another Chelsea man, Oscar, was also subject of a whopping £75 million bid from Jiangsu Suning who are the team that lured Ramires and Teixeira to the Super League as well as Manchester City flop Jo for a more modest £8 million.

Fredy Guarin, who was touted for big things while at Porto but struggled to make much of an impact at Inter Milan, completed a switch to Shanghai for $11 million (around £7.5 million) and Shenhua can also boast Demba Ba and Tim Cahill as members of their squad.

Other big names include ex-Arsenal man Gervinho who is now at Hebei CFFC along with Stephane Mbia who will be remembered by fans of QPR, although probably not fondly, and former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho now plys his trade at Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande along with Martinez.

It is not just players that have made the move to Asia though. World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002 Luiz Felipe Scolari is the manager at Evergrande, journeyman Sven Goran Eriksson is the man at the helm of Shanghai, Chelsea legend Dan Petrescu is boss of the mega rich Jiangsu and one of the few Chinese players known to English fans, Li Tie, has been in charge of Hebei since August of last year. Guus Hiddink announced he had offers from China and even Jose Mourinho’s name has been banded about as a possible arrival.

Super signing: Ramires at Jiangsu

Super signing: Ramires at Jiangsu

So why is the Super League now…well, the super league?

Xi Jinping, President of China no less, happens to be a big football fan and is sick of watching his nation fall behind in the football world and has demanded the clubs spend big to attract the globe’s top talent.

The Guardian report the riches are coming from business men who are using the sport to improve their political relations and Jinping was in the UK as part of a state visit in October last year and paid a visit to Manchester City, despite being a fan of their rivals Manchester United.

Are the Chinese actually interested in the league though?

Damn right they are. From this season onwards clubs in the Super League are set to receive around $200 million (£134 million) a year as part of a five-season television deal package worth around $1.25 billion. In the 2015 season the clubs were awarded just $9 million which signals the rapid growth. To put that into some sort of context the Premier League’s three-year television deal is worth £5.14 billion which dwarfs the Super League in many respects, but the Premier League is 24 years old, the Super League has not even reached puberty yet, being just 12.

Why is the Super League different to MLS or Qatar?

Well, squad restriction is the best place to start..and China is more relaxed. American squad rules are complicated to say the least, but the headline is that MLS clubs are only allowed three “Designated” players which would be your high profile ones of Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry and the like. In China you are allowed five non-Chinese players but at least one still needs to be Asian – South Korean, for example. Three plus the non-Chinese Asian are allowed in a match day squad. The Qatari league allows four foreign players with at least one being Asian.

MLS players also have a wage cap whereas Super League teams can spend whatever the hell they want and it is not unfair to say that they have been.

The national team front would also be a major difference. The Chinese FA has launched a campaign to get the national side to where they believe it belongs and in January 2015 they reached the quarter-finals of the Asia Cup – their best performance in a decade. They won all their group games but lost to hosts and eventual winners Australia.

China is planning a bid to host the 2023 Asia Cup, and Xinping has ordered that football be more prevalent in schools…and when you are a country with a population of an estimated 1.357 billion surely some of them could and will be top footballers if brought up with the sport from a young age.

Qatar already have the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, for now at least, but their approach of moving young players from African countries to Qatar so that they can citizenship before 2022 is not exactly the traditional method of grassroots.

Soccer is growing in the U.S slowly but surely, although it is still seen as a women’s game in the States due to the apparent ‘no contact’ nature of the sport – and this is highlighted by 26.7 million Americans watching the Women’s World Cup Final (won by the USA), but only 17.3 million watched the men’s team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Is the Chinese model sustainable?

Looks like it. When you have got big business men along with the fifth richest man in the world involved, you always have a chance.

Do not be surprised if this time in the next few years, maybe even next year, you are sat in-front of your television set glued to Guangzhou Evergrande vs Jiangsu Suning and watching the players your club were after in the summer.

 

Juventus 3-2 Roma

Juventus battled to a dramatic 3-2 win over AS Roma in a match where two red cards were shown, three penalties were awarded, Roma dropped points for the first time this season while Juventus kept up their 100% record.

Six cards were shown in a bad tempered clash, three for each side as well as one red card each.

Leonardo Bonucci dramatically won the game for the holders four minutes before the end, volleying in the winner from the edge of the box.

Penalty number one was dispatched by Carlos Tevez just before the half hour mark after Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick struck the hand of Maicon.

Roma were awarded a spot kick of their own five minutes later when Francesco Totti was bundled to the floor by Stephan Lichtsteiner in an off the ball incident during a free-kick.

Totti dusted himself down and dispatched his penalty for 1-1.

Rudi Garcia’s side completed the turn around 12 minutes later thanks to Juan Iturbe’s clinical first time strike as a result of a clever Gervinho pass.

Juventus’ second penalty was awarded in controversial circumstances, Paul Pogba was fouled by Seydou Keita outside the box but referee Gianluca Rocchi adjudged that the foul took place inside the area and wrongly gave the penalty.

Spot on: Carlos Tevez celebrates his second scored penalty.

Spot on: Carlos Tevez celebrates his second scored penalty.

Tevez was left with the simple task of scoring his second from the spot in the game to bring the Old Lady back level in first half injury time.

Gervinho had a golden opportunity to extend Roma’s lead just before that penalty but he curled a shot high and wide of Juventus’ goal.

Miralem Pjanic had the chance of the second half but he failed to hit the target from a tight angle after some good work by Gervinho to keep the ball in play.

Substitute Alvaro Morata came closest for the hosts when his header hit the bar.

Late drama ensured in Turin as both Morata and Kostas Manolas were sent off. Morata for a feisty challenge and Manolas for his reaction to said challenge, pushing Morata in the chest which sparked a mass brawl towards the end shortly after Juventus’ third goal.

Juventus: Buffon, Caceres (Ogbonna ’45), Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo (Vidal ’79), Marchisio, Asamoah, Tevez, Llorente (Morata ’59)

Subs not used: Storari, Rubinho, Evra, Pepe, Padoin, Pereyra, Mattiello, Coman, Giovinco

Roma: Skorupski; Maicon, Manolas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Holebas; Pjanic, Keita, Nainggolan, Iturbe (Florenzi ’66) Totti (Destro ’75), Gervinho

Subs not used: Lobont, Cole, Ljajic, Paredes, Torosidis, Ucan, Somma, Emanuelson, Calabresi, Sanabria

 

Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast: Clinical Colombians cast aside Cote d’Ivorie

Colombia continued their 100% record in the 2014 World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast. Goals from James Rodriguez  and Juan Fernando Quintero made Gervinho’s goal in reply only mere consolation.

Tricolor were slow to get out of gear but found full throttle after 64 minutes when Rodriguez headed in from Juan Guillermo Cuadrado’s corner.

Substitute Quintero doubled the lead six minutes later when Colombia accelerated on the counter attack. Teofilo Gutierrez had options left and right and opted right to Quintero who sealed the win.

Gervinho hit back soon after, just three minutes after the game looked dead and buried when he cleverly jinked past two Colombian defenders and then beat David Ospina at his near post.

Party time: Juan Quintero settles the tie and the celebration of the tournament ensues.

Party time: Juan Quintero settles the tie and the celebration of the tournament ensues.

The first half was a cagey affair with the only main chance coming to Gutierrez who spooned a shot wide when he was in space – a poor miss.

Despite increased pressure the Ivory Coast couldn’t find the much needed leveler and now face a crucial match against Greece to decide their fate.

Didier Zokora will miss the game through suspension however as he picked up his second booking in two games.

Colombia meanwhile play Japan knowing just a draw will cement themselves as group winners whatever happens in Japan’s game against Greece later on today.

Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan

Two goals in quick succession secured a superb turnaround by the Ivory Coast against Japan as Didier Drogba and co joined Colombia on three points in Group C

Japan raced into a 1-0 lead after Keisuke Honda motored through the back four and hit a driven shot into the top corner with 16 minutes on the clock.

The Ivory Coast drew lever with twenty five minutes when Serge Aurier’s sweeping cross by headed in by a charging Wilfried Bony, the goal.

Amazingly the West Africans took the lead straight after, another Aurier cross from a similar position was headed in by Gervinho this time and withing two minutes the Ivory Coast had gone from one goal down to one goal up.

Didier Drogba had entered the fray just after the hour and his introduction clearly had an impact, although not having a direct impact in the goals, Drogba’s arrival seemed to lift the team as a whole.

He had a chance of his own in the last ten minutes but his free-kick was tipped wide by Eiji Kawashima.

A shot of his was also deflected past the goalmouth with five minutes remaining.

Following Honda’s goal, Japan were the team in a different gear early on, Atsuto Uchida almost doubled Japan’s advantage five minutes later after he jinked inside one Ivorian defender but could only shoot straight at Boubacar Barry who steered it away.

Yaya Toure was the driving force for Cote d’Ivorie, firing a free-kick over the bar and setting up Solomon Kalou who wasted a chance.

Arthur Boka rifled one from range that Kawashima parried out only as far as Wilfried Bony but the Swansea man was offside.

Kalou had a golden opportunity just before half time but his header was misjudged and sailed well wide when the ‘keeper should have been tested.

Despite his early goal, Japan’s play-maker Honda stalled for the rest of the game, couldn’t build on their lead and were ultimately punished by the ability of the forwards at the disposal of Sabri Lamouchi’s and his side.