Gao focused on China's long-term goals
© AFP

China PR coach Gao Hongbo has hailed his young players after a 2-0 victory over Kuwait in their AFC Asian Cup Group A opener, but insisted his sights were still set on more long-term objectives.

Gao named a squad with an average age of 24 for the Qatar tournament - the youngest in the history of the Chinese national side - and insisted he was approaching the event with an eye firmly on the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

Yesteday's defeat of Kuwait puts China in a strong position to reach the knockout phase and helps ease the embarrassment of their group-stage elimination in 2007.

But Gao refused to reassess his immediate goals. "Preparing for this tournament, we had two different targets," he said. "One is to treat this as a test of the Chinese playing style. The second part is to let more players participate in the Asian Cup and allow them to prove themselves."

Preparing for this tournament, we had two different targets. One is to treat this as a test of the Chinese playing style. The second part is to let more players participate in the Asian Cup and allow them to prove themselves.
Gao Hongbo, China PR coach

Second-half goals by Zhang Linpeng and Deng Zhouxiang saw China comfortably past Kuwait at the Al Gharafa Stadium after the Gulf side was reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of left-back Mesad Nada for a crude kick at Yang Xu.

Kuwait's defeat came hot on the heels of fellow Gulf representatives Qatar's loss to Uzbekistan in their group opener on Friday. Both Qatar and Kuwait undertook heavy preparatory schedules prior to the tournament, and Gao suggested their approach may have backfired. "In the Qatar team, the players' individual ability is very good. The Kuwait team has very good teamwork," he said, when asked about the two sides' strengths.

"Maybe the host team suffers too much pressure. I watched Qatar and Kuwait before the Asian Cup. Maybe their players played too many games, maybe they're tired."

Goalscorer Deng, who also scored a stunning free-kick in China's shock 1-0 win against France in a friendly in June, was named the official man of the match, but Gao refused to single out his players for praise. "As head coach, I say good things to players behind closed doors," he said. "Football is a team game, so in public I never talk about which player is the best."

China next play Qatar on Wednesday before their final group game against Uzbekistan on 16 January.