Taiwan face a stern test tomorrow when hosting Jordan at the Taipei Municipal Stadium in the home leg of the Asia Zone Group B qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer finals in Qatar.
The Taiwan lineup is definitely to feature captain Chen Po-liang, as midfield playmaker, and star goalkeeper Pan Wen-chieh from the 30-man roster announced last week by head coach Louis Lancaster.
Chen, who plays for Zhejiang Greentown in China’s second division, and Pan, who plays for Taipei Tatung in Taiwan’s top league, have produced outstanding performances in international matches, sparking a resurgence of passion and support for the Taiwan national team.
Photo: Liao Yu-wei, Taipei Times
Lancaster has options at striker, with Chen Hao-wei (Eastern Long Lions, Hong Kong), Lee Mao (Taichung Futuro), naturalized Taiwanese citizen Onur Dogan (Taipei Tatung) from Turkey and several new add-ons on the roster.
Lancaster also has English-Taiwanese teenager Will Donkin, recently of the Premier League’s Crystal Palace youth team, to support the midfield partnership of Chen Po-liang and Wen Chih-hao.
The players are calling for a big turnout to cheer on 125th-ranked Taiwan in their matchup at 7:10pm against 99th-ranked Jordan.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
“We must concentrate at game time to win the battle on the pitch, and to achieve better results for Team Taiwan,” Chen Po-liang said. “For the match, we want to see more fans at the stadium, to give our team the most support possible.”
Taking the helm in January, Lancaster has urged more aggressive, faster-paced play, pushing the defensive line farther up to defend and attack in the opposition’s half.
“I have also told players that running hard is not enough, but they must use brains, to think and make the correct judgement, and to react more quickly on the ball,” he said in a recent interview.
Although two of Taiwan’s veteran international defenders could not join the roster, the side’s defense is to be bolstered by Korean-Taiwanese defender Wang Chien-ming (Gwangju, South Korea). However, any deficiencies in the backline are sure to be exploited by Jordan striker Baha’ Faisal.
Spanish-Taiwanese fullback Yaki Yen (Qingdao Huanghai, China League One) is off the roster, recovering from a thigh injury, while English-Taiwanese defensive midfielder Tim Chow (Henan Jianye, China Super League, top division) turned down an invitation to play, the quarrels and friction from March last year — when Chow was dismissed by former head coach Gary White — are apparently still simmering.
National soccer governing body the Chinese Taipei Football Association tried to patch up any differences between the side and Chow, even planning to have Lancaster travel to Henan to personally meet with the athlete, but Chow’s agent refused.
The refusal to play for Taiwan could be China’s gain, as Chow has been in excellent form this season, becoming a star player and a fan favorite in Henan.
Media have reported that Chinese soccer authorities are working to get Chow Chinese citizenship — based on his grandfather was born in China — so that he would be eligible to help out China’s World Cup qualification campaign.
Taiwan on Tuesday next week host Nepal at the Taipei Municipal Stadium at 7:10pm for their second Group B World Cup qualifier.
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