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Zhang Closer to World Cup
By: Jostein Jensen
THE CHANCES of seeing Zhang Enhua play in the World Cup taking part in Japan and South Korea next summer are now significant. Following China's important win in Shenyang on Saturday, the Dalian Shide defender could be the first former Town player to participate in a World Cup since Johnny Scott.
The Northern Ireland international was though still playing for the Mariners when he played in Sweden's 1958 World Cup. Scott won 2-1 over Czechoslovakia in MalmÃ¸, but lost 0-4 to France in NorrkÃ¸ping when his native land reached the Quarter-finals.
The world's most populated land however has never before been involved in the final stages of the tournament, but World Cup expert Bora Milutinovic could be the first to guide China there. China have failed in their six previous attempts to reach the finals.
China are now half way through the group stages and are four points ahead of the closest team. Bora's strategy of keeping the team in a training camp almost as a league team has obviously yielded results. In the white and red's 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan, two of China's defenders scored - Pingan's talented right back Li Weifeng headed in a corner while Palace defender Fan Zhiyi curled a free kick into the goal. Uzbekistan had to look long for a win as Rostelmash's veteran defender Sergey Luschan was sent off during the match.
The group winner will go straight to the World Cup next summer while the runners-up will get a chance in the play off's against number two in the second group. That group is much closer - Iran and Saudi Arabia were the favourites before the group play started. But underdogs Bahrain have really got it going now after some hard years for all their fans. Only two points separates the top three teams. Thailand are now out as they lost 1-3 to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Peter Withe's team have so far only got two points.
Zhang Enhua became mighty popular during his stay in Grimsby last season. In 17 league appearances he scored 3 goals and was a major reason why the Mariners stayed up. The Dalian Shide star was however an expensive loanee earning several times the wages of the other Grimsby players.
Stories linking Zhang back to the Mariners have appeared in the media, but Grimsby manager Lennie Lawrence regards that as mission impossible. "You won't get anybody out of China because they are in the middle of their World Cup qualifying programme and it's my belief they won't let anyone out because they've got the best chance ever to make it to the finals. They have several games left to play in their group so I'm not even thinking down those lines. He did a job for us last season but we can't keep looking back and Zhang is not an option," said the Town boss.
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