China captain wants to quit after Singapore draw in World Cup qualifiers

By Trung Thu   March 23, 2024 | 02:00 am PT
Zhang Linpeng wanted to retire from China national football team after the draw against Singapore in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, which he considered "an embarrassment."
Zhang Linpeng (number 5) and his teammates thank the fans after the 2-2 draw with Singapore in the second qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup on March 21, 2024. Photo by CFP

Zhang Linpeng (number 5) and his teammates thank fans after their 2-2 draw against Singapore in the second qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup on March 21, 2024. Photo by CFP

At Singapore National Stadium on Thursday night, China led 2-0 but defensive errors led to the host equalizing 2-2 in the end. Linpeng made a mistake in the second goal of Singapore when he could not clear the ball properly, allowing Jacob Mahler to finish past goalkeeper Yan Junling.

Linpeng could not hide his disappointment in the post-game interview.

"After the match, I thought that it was time to retire from the national team," Linpeng said. "We couldn't even win against Singapore. That's an embarrassment."

Linpeng's wife also posted on Chinese social network Weibo a recording of a conversation with her husband. The 35-year-old defender said in the post: "I think I can't do better even if I give 200% of effort every day. There's no way I can accept this result."

According to Beijing Sports, Linpeng was the player with the best stats in among China defenders in the match despite making an error.

Linpeng has played for the China national team since 2009, with 105 appearances, scoring six goals. He has experience playing in World Cup qualifiers and Asian Cup and is considered a veteran.

"The decision to retire showed the veteran’s helplessness with the team's current situation," Beijing Sports wrote.

The draw pushed China down to third in group C, with four points, same as Thailand but with a lower goal difference (-2 compared to +1). South Korea remained top of the group with seven points. China must win against Singapore in the rematch on March 26, before playing two important matches against Thailand and South Korea in June, to maintain their chance of advancing to the next round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

China also had a disappointing at the 2023 Asian Cup earlier this year when they had two draws, one loss and were eliminated from the group stage. Coach Aleksandar Jankovic was sacked after the tournament and his successor is former Oman coach Branko Ivankovic.

On Weibo, Chinese fans called the draw against Singapore the biggest disgrace since the friendly 1-5 defeat to Thailand in 2013.

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