Ronaldo-inspired Wei aims to fire China to Qatar 2022

  • Wei Shihao’s career has taken off at Guangzhou under Fabio Cannavaro

  • The on-song forward was unfortunately sidelined with injury in June's qualifiers

  • He has vowed to showcase his best in upcoming third round Qatar 2022 action

China PR forward Wei Shihao will enter Thursday's opener against Australia in Asia's second qualifying round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ aiming to make up for his absence during the second round campaign in June. Three months back, the on-song Guangzhou striker was called up to Li Tie's new-look squad who were desperately seeking to progress from Group A as one of the best runners-up. Having impressed in the Chinese Super League over the past two seasons, Wei was considered to shoulder the goal-scoring tasks for Team Dragon. The emerging star's hopes were, however, dashed by an unexpected hamstring injury during pre-match training. "It was disappointing missing those [key] matches," the 26-year-old told "I am a player who always gives my all in training and playing and this perhaps makes me injury-prone. Two years ago, I also missed our [2019 AFC] Asian Cup campaign due to physical reasons. And after all this, I have thought of how to avoid getting unnecessarily injured. "I am a bit thin and coach Li Tie asked me to get physically strong through weight training. Now I have learned that as a professional player, it is as important to protect yourself on the pitch so to perform well."

Chinese football player Wei Shihao of Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C., left, and Brazilian football player Paulinho of Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C., right, celebrates a goal which will be denied soon during the first-round match of AFC Champions League (ACL) against Urawa Red Diamonds

Chinese CR7 A product of Shandong Luneng FC's youth academy, Wei joined Boavista in 2013 for a season, with the stint in Portugal a perfect match for the fervent Cristiano Ronaldo fan. "I started playing football as a little boy and my dad is a football fan. We both became Ronaldo fans after watching UEFA Euro 2004. I began watching his matches, I watched nearly all the videos of his matches which I could find.” And it didn't take him long to showcase what potential he boasted on the international scene. Wei excelled in the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship, notably striking a brace, including a sublimely taken free-kick as China downed Japan 2-1 in a group game. After that campaign, he earned the nickname as the 'Chinese CR7'. Emergence under Cannavaro Wei returned home in 2017 to join Shanghai SIPG before leaving for Beijing Guoan the following year. His predatory talents didn't go unnoticed by Guangzhou manager Fabio Cannavaro who signed him in 2019. And it was under the Italian legend that Wei's career took off. Wei got his spell with Guangzhou off to a brilliant start, racking up 11 goals in his first season as his side claimed their eighth league title. He continued prolific form the next season and, despite having limited playing chances due to another injury, he still managed to score eight times out of just ten appearances. After missing the qualifying campaign in June, Wei had to spend over a month nursing his injury. Despite this, he quickly bounced back to his usual form when he returned to play in July, striking five times. "I scored more goals with Guangzhou because coach Cannavaro placed a lot of faith in me and gave me plenty of chances," Wei went on, reflecting on the progress he has made. "Added to that, we have top-quality team-mates who have provided me with great support. In recent seasons, Paulinho attracted much attention from the opposition leaving me with chances to score. Captain Zheng Zhi also helped me a lot through his accurate passes." With speed and skills, Wei is a player who fears no rivals and is capable of pulling off audacious strikes. And his confident play may provide Li's China with extra options upfront against firstly Australia, and then Japan five days later as they aim to get their campaign off to a good start. "I am usually mentally strong but I was reckless in the past. I will try to straighten that and not get unnecessary yellow or red cards. "I think our group is not bad. Both Australia and Japan are strong but we will have our chances as long as we perform well. We do our work well, play to our level and the opportunities will come naturally. It is every footballer's dream to play in the World Cup and we will definitely do our best to make that happen."