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With a population of more than 1.3 billion, it's rediculous that we can't even find 10 people who can play soccor well. Japan and Korea can do that , why can't we?
Maybe they know the game is called football and involves 11 players per team, not 10 ?
China does not have a football culture and there is no will to implement it by the authorities because they know it would take hundreds of years to bear fruits. In other words : it's not flashy enough.
The Chinese authorities put the money where it will reap the most benefits (understand gold medals). If you add to this the complete corruption of Chinese football and the fact that they do not play for the national team but for their own personal interest (see how they destroyed Chen Tao and Wang Dalei's careers for a couple hundred thousand dollars), it is no wonder Chinese football is so low.
I play football on week-ends with a Chinese team. My teammates have incredible stamina but it seems they all think they're Messi. They don't pass the ball, they keep running with it trying to dribble the opponents. And when they do pass the ball they do not follow on the actions. I try to explain them that playing without the ball is just as important as playing with the ball and that you have to sacrifice for the team but I have a hard time getting through.
China's presence to the world cup in 2002 is pretty much due to the same circumstances as Li Na's victory at Rolland Garros : a weak opposition and a great coach, Bora Milutinovic. And just like Li Na's victory did not make China a tennis superpower, 2002 did not make China a great country of football.
In the case of Japan, when Philippe Troussier, who is the coach that changed the face of the Japanese national team, became coach, he was appaled to see the forced respect between new members and old members of the team. Players were not judge on their talents but on their experience. The best players would not play because the coach had to respect the older players and let them play. The younger players were washing the older players shoes, etc... The Japanese Federation knew change was necessary and this is why they hired a foreign coach as they knew changed would be more welcomed if it is instigated by someone with no knowledge of the local culture. Troussier kicked a lot of "ancients" off the team because they were simply not good enough to be members of the national team and replaced them with youngsters who accepted competition.
Football is a very good reflection of society.
On a side note, the Chinese football team gave a great gift to France when they injured Djibril Cisse preventing him to play in the world cup 2006