China may have already booked a spot in the Asian Cup quarter-finals but there is still plenty to for in their final Group B fixture against North Korea in Canberra on Sunday.
Alain Perrin’s China saw off Saudi Arabia (1-0) and Uzbekistan (2-1) to qualify for the last eight in Australia.
Successive wins marked the first time China had won their opening two matches at an Asian Cup finals tournament since 1988, when they went on to reach the semi-finals.
However, China have never won their opening three games at the Asian Cup.
While the pressure has subsided heading into Sunday’s clash against winless North Korea in the nation’s capital, the result at Canberra Stadium will determine China’s opponent in the knockout round.
China will face either host nation Australia or South Korea, depending on finishing positions.
The Chinese are expected to ring the changes for their final group game, having only made two different selections to their starting XI against Uzbekistan last time out.
Jiang Zhipeng and Gao Lin replaced Hao Junmin and Ji Xiang in Brisbane.
“We will see, it depends, as we must think about the next game,” said coach Perrin.
“It is an option as we have qualified but I still want to win the next game as well.”
Only pride is at stake for North Korea, who are already eliminated.
As expected, North Korea have been inferior to their opponents Down Under, though they scored their first Asian Cup goal in 23 years during a 4-1 loss against Saudi Arabia in Melbourne.
That in itself was the highlight for North Korea, who are still developing under coach Jo Tong-sop.
“I think our skills and levels [of performance] are not high enough. We are still developing,” said Jo.
“We have to continue developing as quickly as possible to create even better players in the future.”
The most recent clash between the two nations was in June 2011, when China triumphed 2-0 in an international friendly.
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