SYDNEY, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) — The Chinese women’s football team are staying in Australia in preparation for the forthcoming Olympic qualification playoff against South Korea, unsure about where to play the home leg.
China, who qualified as runners-up of Group B to qualify for the playoffs, will play the away leg in South Korea on March 6.
Five days later, they will have to play their home leg on foreign soil given the concerns over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China.
“The team hope they can play the home leg in Australia, as they are used to the surroundings after having spent some time here,” a team source said.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA) originally planned to move their home leg to Japan, but the East Asian country denied entry from Thursday on to Chinese citizens carrying passports issued by Hubei and Zhejiang provinces — the two places which were hit hardest by the virus.
Some Chinese players, such as skipper Wu Haiyan, carry passports issued by governments of those two places.
The Chinese side cannot afford to lose any more players after four players, including playmaker Wang Shuang, had to sit out their Group B matches due to virus control measures taken by China.
The four players were stranded in Wuhan, the epidemic center, which had been locked down to reduce the spread of the virus.
If the capital of Hubei province remains locked down next month, those four players will miss the playoff against South Korea.
A CFA source said they were still sorting out details and expected to decide on the location of the home leg in the next day or two.
“We prepared four options, Australia tops them,” the source said.
The virus outbreak has played havoc with the Chinese women’s football team.
The matches of Group B, which also features Australia, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, were originally set to take place in Wuhan from February 3 to 9. Due to the epidemic outbreak, the fixtures were initially moved to China’s eastern city of Nanjing, before being moved again to Sydney, Australia.
The Chinese team were quarantined for one week in Brisbane, Australia after they landed there on January 29.
“My players did not touch a ball for almost ten days,” said Jia Xiuquan, head coach of the Chinese side following their 6-1 win over Thailand at their first group match last Friday.
In the ensuing two matches they beat Chinese Taipei 5-0 and drew 1-1 with Australia.