Wu Lei: China is making rapid improvement
Prodigy-turned-star of football in China PR, Wu Lei believes that his nation will not only qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, but will put together a fighting display in the second-ever edition of the tournament to be held in Asia.
Wu’s 88th minute goal at home against Qatar in the second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ Asian qualifiers helped China PR clinch a berth in the third round, where they will face the 2022 hosts once again, this time in Group A.
The exciting Shanghai SIPG playmaker told www.sc.qa he hopes to continue playing a leading role in his nation’s emergence as one of Asia’s top football nations by featuring in Russia – and also in Qatar.
“I am now focusing on the 2018 third round qualifiers,” said Wu, who turns 25 on 19 November, four days after Team Dragon host Qatar. “Every third round qualifier is a tough assignment and we start our campaign against South Korea, who were the Asian Cup finalists. It would be important to qualify for Russia – we have not played a World Cup since 2002. It is a bit early to talk about 2022 but football is improving rapidly in China and we have a good chance of putting together a good show in Qatar.
“The win against Qatar in March is the most significant in recent Chinese football history. We did not reach the third round qualifiers of the previous three World Cups and had to win against Qatar, who had won all their previous qualifiers. Therefore, my goal in that game is one of the most important of my international career. We will approach the game with a lot of confidence as we emerged winners at home earlier this year. However, just as with all our opponents, we will treat Qatar with respect.”
Qatar rivalry Wu also remembers the 1-0 defeat to Jose Carreno’s team in October 2015, when midfielder Karim Boudiaf scored the winner. His abiding memory from that game is of the personal duel against another prodigy-turned-future hope, Qatar’s Abdulkarim Hassan, who made his club debut at 17 and has earned 51 caps despite being two years younger than Wu. “I came on as a second half substitute in that game and was very impressed with Hassan,” recalled Wu, who has seven goals from 35 caps. “He is a terrific left-back, good in defence and fantastic going forward to assist his offensive team-mates.”
Wu also says he has improved the defensive aspects of his game thanks to his club coach Sven Goran-Eriksson, who coached England at the 2002 and the 2006 World Cups. In addition to his defensive duties, Wu has also been a prolific scorer for Eriksson. Last season, he knocked in 14 goals to help Shanghai SIPG to second in the Chinese Super League. This year, in addition to the goal against Qatar, Wu has scored crucial goals away and at home for Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League round of 16 match against FC Tokyo.
“I will be trying my best to keep myself in a good condition to play in every single game, be it for China or for my club.”