A rampant China saw off Panama 4-1 at the Galgenwaard Stadium in Utrecht in their third match of Group B of FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005 on 17 June. Eckhard Krautzun's men head into the next stage as group winners to face a third placed qualifier. Meanwhile, Panama will pack for home empty-handed after three straight defeats.
China coach Krautzun admitted the team's initial targets have been achieved. "We will go into the knockout stage with less pressure but there we could meet the likes of Spain, Brazil and Netherlands who are all formidably strong."
With regular striker Zhu Ting and midfielder Cui Peng suspended, Krautzun made four changes to the team which beat Ukraine 3-2 in the previous match. Midfielder Wang Hongliang started for the first time in the tournament with new face Yuan Weiwei in for left-back Zheng Tao, who picked up a yellow card in the opener against Turkey. For Panama, coach Victor Mendieta made two changes in his midfield, Celso Polo and Richardo Buitrago replacing Luis Gallardo and Cristian Vega.
Only needing a draw against winless Panama to reach an unassailable seven points in Group B, China started this match in a relaxed frame of mind. Panama threatened China's goal early on as Alvaro Salazar stole a ball near the edge of the area only to see his low drive gathered by Yang Cheng.
This let-off rang warning bells for China, who seemed to wake up and settle into the match. Hao Junmin's through ball found a surging Gao Lin, but keeper Jose Calderon rushed off his to smother the danger.
Then the Asians went ahead. The mercurial Lu Lin broke down the left before cutting back for Zhou Haibin from the goal line. The Chinese national striker made no mistake firing a low shot past Jose Calderon into the far post. (1:0, 6')
China could have doubled their lead eight minutes later when Tan Wangsong's dangerous cross flew into the area. Chen Tao's first shot was blocked by Calderon, and the rebound fell at Gao Lin's feet but his effort cleared the crossbar.
Panama's first real chance came after 15 minutes. Richardo Buitrago's free kick found the head of Edwin Aguilar, but the China keeper Yang Cheng dived to his left to keep the lead intact.
The Canaleros' efforts paid dividends after 37 minutes as they leveled the score. It was again Buitrago who fired in a free-kick from the right which was deflected behind. From the resulting corner kick he perfectly picked out big Jose Venegas, who rose high to plant a powerful header past Yang Cheng. (1:1, 37')
Comeback hopes extinguished
Any hopes of a famous fightback lasted only three minutes. Wang Hongliang whipped in a cross from the right which found Gao Lin perfectly, and the big forward scored with a textbook downward header. (2:1, 40')
Panama pressed forward in search of another equalizer after the interval but only succeeded in leaving gaps for China. The Asians did not have to wait long for the third. Gao Lin sent over a curling cross from the left which Calderon could only push a few yards out. The first one to it was the onrushing Hao Junmin, who comfortably slotted home. (3:1, 51')
But the vociferous Chinese supporters weren't satisfied, loudly chanting "China-4:1". In the 54th minute, Chen Tao nearly obliged when he shot just over from 20 yards out. Only a minute later, in a goalmouth scramble, Yuan Weiwei inexplicably shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
But almost inevitably China scored their fourth when Lu Lin's superb free-kick flew in off the post leaving Panama keeper Calderon crestfallen. (4:1, 78')
Losing coach Victor Mendieta was sanguine after the match. "China were obviously stronger than us in all departments. They are a team to respect."