China fans hope for strong showing on debut

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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Gwangju, South Korea:

Gwangju has China fever, as fans and players descend upon this southern Korean city for their big opening match against Costa Rica on Tuesday. China, making its debut in the World Cup, will also face Turkey and Brazil in their Group C. The Chinese believe they have a realistic chance of advancing into the knockout rounds. A party atmosphere at the airport greeted the first-time World Cup participants. Thousands of fans have come from China to cheer on their team, many basing themselves on Cheju island where the team is training. Gwangju played host to Spain and Slovenia who played Sunday. Tuesday's match will be in the afternoon heat here. Costa Rica is the favorite, as they won their qualifying group from North and Central America and the Caribbean. But Chinese fans believe that their team is underrated and will surprise the football world with a strong showing in the tournament. Gwangju has named one avenue China Street in honor of their guests. Chinese flags flutter around town welcoming the team and its fans. "I've seen many football matches. But the World Cup matches are the best. Every team gives their best effort in every match. It's the first time China has attended this big event. I think they can perform well. But it will be difficult for them to play in such important matches with such quality teams. But I think that just qualifying for the World Cup is a big success," said Tao Jing, a Chinese fan from Shanghai. "I think the Chinese football team is lucky because they don't have matches with Senegal and Cameroon. Because they are both very strong teams. But having a match with Costa Rica, I believe that China can beat them with no problem," said Zhang Jin-sung, who is also rooting for China. Monday night a special concert will take place at Chosun University for the Chinese guests. Headliners including F4 from Taiwan, Na-ing from mainland China and performers from Hong Kong and Korea. MTV is sponsoring the big event and holding it at the college because there are may Chinese students attending classes there. The concert and the general excitement around the team promise to make for an exciting week in Gwangju for locals, Chinese visitors and tourists from around the globe. (SNTV)