China play Japan in the final match of the East Asian Cup, with everything still on the line as they bid to claim a third title.
Host nation China, who won the East Asian Cup in 2005 and 2010, are second and only a point adrift of South Korea in the four-team regional competition as they prepare to return to Wuhan Sports Center Stadium for Sunday’s showdown.
Goals in either half from Yu Dabao and Wang Yongpo secured a 2-0 victory for China against North Korea midweek, which revitalised coach Alain Perrin’s hopes courtesy of their first win of the 2015 campaign.
South Korea – in action against North Korea earlier in Wuhan – are in the box seat to claim a second East Asian Cup crown, following on from their 2003 triumph and Wednesday’s 1-1 stalemate with Japan.
China remain in contention, though, and can lift the title if they defeat cellar-dwellers Japan and South Korea fail to beat the North Koreans.
Vahid Halilhodzic and defending champion Japan have nothing but pride to play for in central China.
Halilhodzic opted to use the East Asian Cup to test a number of untried talent, with the 23-man squad made up entirely of Japan-based players.
And Japan could well end the tournament without a victory, having drawn 1-1 with South Korea midweek following their 2-1 defeat to North Korea in the opening match.
Sunday’s decider is the first meeting between China and Japan since 2013, when the former netted two goals in the final 10 minutes to salvage a dramatic 3-3 draw at the East Asian Cup.