If pace is an edge that China can boast over their opponents, Qu Bo, arguably the fastest of the current squad, will play a key role in the team’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
"My 100-metre sprinter record is 11.2 seconds," the slim China and Shaanxi Chanba striker told FIFA.com. "Speed is one of my gifts as I have never undergone any special training about it."
It is reported that Qu, affectionately nicknamed “wind-chaser” by Chinese fans, once took on former ace-striker Hao Haidong in a speed duel during which he left the Chinese striking legend behind. When asked about the truth of the story, the 30-year-old made no answer, but gave a wry smile.
Such lightning pace, coupled with powerful acceleration and sublime dribbling, has made Qu a lethal weapon for China. He showed a glimpse of his genius during the Round of 16 meeting with hosts and eventual winners Argentina at the 2001 FIFA U-20 World Cup, when he overran the opposition's entire back-line to cancel out Maxi Rodriguez' goal, only for Alejandro Dominguez to grab the winner later on.
“That should be one of the most memorable goals I have scored for my country,” said Qu. “Argentina were the clear favourites during that tournament but we gave them plenty of trouble. My confidence was boosted with those experiences against world-class teams."
Qu nearly stunned Australia on the road to South Africa 2010 when he earned a penalty for China in the closing stages. However, Mark Schwarzer came to the Socceroos’ rescue by saving Shao Jiayi's weak spot-kick to secure a share of the points. Last year Qu set up two goals as China crushed Korea Republic 3-0 in the East Asian Football Federation Championship to end a victory-drought against their neighbouring rivals, before scoring a goal and setting up another in the East Asians' recent 6-1 second-leg Brazil 2014 qualifying triumph over Laos.
“Usually I am deployed to catch the opponents out with my pace but I think I can play better against a strong team. Because when they attack they leave holes at the back on which I can capitalise. But against an ultra-defensive side my speed is not as much use,” he added.
Learning from the best
Qu was used as a supersub by Bora Milutinovic during China’s one and only FIFA World Cup appearance at Korea/Japan 2002, featuring in all three games against Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. Although he failed to find the target as his side conceded nine unanswered goals to crash out, it is such experiences against the world’s elite that he cherishes most.
“The Brazilians showed us how a top-class player should perform on the pitch,” said Qu. “Armed with great skills and pace, they played with enough confidence and ease. I learned what a football match is really about.”
Qu is one of only two players from that squad who has survived to figure in China’s current qualifying opener against Laos, the other being defender Du Wei. Qu harbours ambitions to again represent country at the global showpiece for a second time. “I wish I can make more of an impact than previously and I certainly believe I can help my team with my experiences,” he said.
Despite maintaining a high work-rate with both club and country recently, Qu has now set a realistic goal for himself - to earn the recognition of newly-appointed Jose Antonio Camacho. “I must work hard to prove myself if I am to keep my place in the team. I hope coach Camacho can take China to a new level through his Spanish experiences.”
Qu missed out on China’s qualifying campaign for Germany 2006 due to an injury as his team failed to reach the final round. He figured prominently in the side’s disappointing tilt for South Africa 2010, but a lack of consistency saw the team once again bow out after the third stage. Qu, however, seems quietly confident that recent history won’t repeat itself this time around, with China pitted against Iraq, Jordan and Singapore in the penultimate group stage.
“It is a fairly kind draw for us if compared to the previous ones,” he said. “But we have to focus on preparation and fire on all cylinders to win the matches. With an experienced European coach such as Camacho in charge of the team, I am confident we will enjoy different fortunes this time.”