GUANGZHOU: China's new football coach Arie Haan may contrast sharply with his jocular, laidback predecessor Bora Milutinovic, but the Dutchman's no-nonsense approach has reaped instant benefits for the national team.
Speaking after watching his new team hold World Cup-holders Brazil to a goalless draw on Wednesday, the business-like Haan simply said he was pleased with the result and with his new charges.
Few observers had given China a chance against the mighty Brazilians after the team were held to a lacklustre 0-0 draw in a friendly outing against Chinese second division outfit Guangzhou Xianglei last weekend.
However, a fired-up Chinese team could have emerged from the friendly with a memorable scalp but for some profligate finishing.
“This is the first game for China after the World Cup and it was a very good game and a very good result for both teams,” said Haan.
“It's always difficult to play the first game against Brazil... but the players answered in the best way possible,” he added.
Haan attributed China's solid performance against Brazil to the new training regime. Punishing training runs interspersed with lung-bursting sprints, followed by three-on-three training drills, now replace games of “head tennis” in a formula dubbed “Devil's Soccer” by local media.
“Our players now know that hard training will also produce good results,” he said.
Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was also left pondering the wisdom of accepting the lucrative friendly.
Parreira failed to find any positives after the dire encounter and pointed to a heavy playing schedule as the reason for Brazil's lethargic performance.
Real Madrid's grievances would have been fuelled by the sight of star forward Ronaldo coming off second best in a crunching challenge with Everton midfielder Li Tie.
“The result is not surprising as the Brazilian players have travelled a lot recently and it is very difficult for them to keep playing to such a high level with such a busy schedule,” Parreira said. – AFP