An Asian zone World Cup qualifier between the bottom two sides in Group A, who have won just one game in eight between them, may not seem a particularly noteworthy match. But when China face Qatar in Kunming today, it will also be a clash between arguably the most ambitious and certainly in their region biggest spending nations who, in the long-term, could both play a central role in shaping the sport's future.
In the short-term both could deal an almost fatal blow to each other's already very slim chances of reaching Russia 2018. It is the World Cup where both countries wish to make a mark on the global game. Both have invested heavily to fuel their ambitions. China, which aims to be a footballing superpower by 2050, has spent an estimated $1 billion developing its domestic game. It harbors hopes of hosting its own World Cup and, one day, winning football's greatest prize.
Qatar is in the middle of transforming itself by splurging $200 billion-plus to host the 2022 tournament. The stadiums alone for that World Cup will cost some $10 billion. coaches during the current round of qualifying. Notably, China have appointed World Cup winning-coach Marcello Lippi on a reputed $20 million-a-year contract to revive hope in their almost moribund World Cup campaign. Today's game will be his first big test in charge of "Team Dragon." Qatar turned back to popular former coach Jorge Fossati after losing their first two matches in this round of qualifying, despite storming through the last stage.
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