China may have qualified for the FIFA World Cup™ only once, but the world's most populous nation has been more successful at the five-a-side game. Their qualification for Brazil 2008 ensured their third appearance at the global showpiece. The 1990s was the golden era for China, when they booked consecutive progression to the FIFA Futsal World Cups in 1992 and 1996, althought they failed to register a single win on both occasions.
China's policy of counting on an experienced foreign coach paid off as the team, under Brazilian Farinha, emerged as tournament surprise packages by taking one of Asia's four qualifying spots at Brazil 2008. Despite an 8-1 humiliation at the hands of Iran in the second group game, two crushing 9-0 victories over Tajikistan and Kuwait respectively were enough for Farinha's charges to qualify for the last eight along with Iran. There, they outclassed Uzbekistan 4-1 in the quarter-finals to book passage to Brazil 2008, where they will be hoping to notch their first win. With qualification for Brazil sealed and the pressure off, China lost the semi-final clash against Thailand 7-3 before going down to Japan 5-3 in the third-place playoff.
The good work done by China's Brazilian coaching team first paid dividends in an international tournament in Malaysia in February, where the East Asians bravely drew against Brazil before defeating England. They further cemented their place as a rising Asian power by finishing fourth in Asia's qualifying campaign in May. Coach Farinha is expecting the team to break further ground at Brazil 2008 through their trademark teamwork. "It was the good team work that gave us the edge in the qualifying competition, and I hope we can continue to build on this in the World Cup," he said.
Li Ming and Xu Hong, who each scored a brace in China's narrow 5-6 defeat by Spain at Hong Kong 1992. These two stars also featured prominently in eleven-a-side football, as they played a part in China's qualification for Korea/Japan 2002.
Li Xin, who scored five times to steer China to Brazil 2008, including a brace against Tajikistan.
China scored 29 goals in their six qualifying games.
The numbers game:
3 - the number of times China have qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.