Former China coach Arie Haan, who is currently in charge of Albania, made a trip back to the Far East just prior to the kick-off of the Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. After watching the opening round, where his native Netherlands joined the other 15 teams in the men's competition, the former Dutch international spoke to FIFA.com to share his first impressions of the tournament.
FIFA.com: What is your general impression on the opening day's games? Arie Haan: It was a great opening day for all 16 teams, with eight games played in four different venues. But the first games are usually difficult as the team's are just getting started. There were four draws and not many goals were scored. Brazil and Argentina were also not in prolific form although they won. But the teams will be getting better as the competition progresses.
Did any team or players impress you?
I watched Netherlands play against Nigeria in Tianjin, which ended in a goalless draw. Nigeria were the better team on the night and Netherlands also had a couple of chances. But both of them were not in good shape and failed to convert their chances. In other games the likes of Messi, Diego and other big names were not their usual selves. So I expect the next round to be more enthralling to watch.
China had two shots denied by the woodwork, so do you think they were just unlucky to draw?
It is football. In football games anything can happen. The important thing is to learn from every game and you have to start all over again for the next game. Every game is a new beginning.
How do you rate China's chances against Belgium in the next game?
Both sides have chances to win. After scoring their first goal in the tournament China will be feeling better, but Belgium are also a strong team. In the build-up to the competition, Netherlands defeated them 1-0 in a friendly which Belgium largely dominated.
You discovered Zhou Haibin's talents and called him into China senior team during your reign. The midfielder started the game against New Zealand and what do you think of him today?
He is a good midfielder with wide vision. He has made good progress and I believe he will play better in the next games.
Iraq made a milestone achievement four years ago by reaching last four. Are any Asian teams capable of emulating their feat?
It is a hard question as it is too premature to predict the results after just one matchday. But I hope China will do well. As hosts they will receive support from the fans and if they can go through to the next stage, then they have a chance to go even further.
Who are the favourites to win the tournament?
There are good teams and players in this competition but we will have to wait for a couple of more games to find out which are the teams to beat. Argentina and Brazil are competitive sides but they didn't play at their best in the first round. So, let's see.