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Sun Ke of China celebrates scoring
© Getty Images

FIFA World Cup™ finals history*
Generally, China PR has a forgettable history in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, with their first six attempts all ending in failure. The breakthrough finally came when the team, under Bora Milutinovic, booked their maiden qualification for Korea/Japan 2002. That marked China's only appearance in the global extravaganza, however, as new salts were rubbed into old wounds with Team Dragon missing out on the past three editions.

The team*
Three-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande provided a third of China's 2015 AFC Asian Cup squad. Captaining Alain Perrin's new-look side is 2013 AFC Player of the Year winner Zheng Zhi, who skippered Guangzhou to that year's AFC Champions League title. Forming a solid defensive partnership are his club-mates Feng Xiaoting and Zhang Linpeng, while Gao Lin remains the team’s goal-machine.

Having taken China to the last eight in the aforementioned Asian finals, Perrin, who took over from Jose Antonio Camacho last year, is lauded by media for selecting players on form rather than fame. Indeed, a host of young talents have made their way into the line-up with attacking midfielder Wu Lei the most notable. Both Yang Xu and Yu Hai have scored regularly at club level and youngster Liu Binbin is capable of breaching the opponents' rearguard through his pacy runs.  

The coach
The qualifying campaign has seen a couple of managerial switches. Firstly, Alain Perrin was sacked by the Chinese Football Association in January 2016 for the team's below-par performances in the second round. Assuming the reins a month later was Gao Hongbo, who successfully guided the team through to the next phase but opted to end his reign after a series of disappointing results in the consequent third round. Then came Marcello Lippi, who took charge with  expectations of rekindling the team's already-diminishing hopes.

The stat*
*0 *- China conceded nine unanswered goals as they exited after the group stage in their only appearance at Korea/Japan 2002.  

The former stars *
Rong Zhixing, Fan Zhiyi, Hao Haidong, Sun Jihai, Yang Chen