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Pacy, flexible, compact

Team China pose stern test for wary Reds

Bayern will contest four warm-up matches before resuming their quest for trophies on 29 January against Wuppertaler SV in the DFB German Cup Round of 16. Following Wednesday evening’s 2-1 success away to second division FC Augsburg, the Bundesliga leaders face another intriguing test of their credentials on Saturday.

The day before flying to a winter training camp in Marbella, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men entertain the Chinese Olympic football team in the home leg of the inaugural Allianz Cup. It might look like a mismatch on paper, but Bayern are wary in the extreme of a side likely to push them all the way.

Pacy, flexible, compact

“We mustn’t underestimate them,” Marcell Jansen told fcbayern.de. “They’re pacy, flexible, and compact, good at letting the ball do the work.“ Back at the 2005 U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands, Jansen was part of the Germany line-up which knocked the Chinese out of the tournament 3-2 in the Round of 16.

The current Olympic team, coached by Serbian national Ratomir Dujkovic, includes more than half the 2005 squad, all of them born in 1985. Most of the players earn their corn in the Chinese C-League, and a clutch are already on the fringes of the senior national team. The squad boasts three permitted overage players, including Du Zhenyu, China’s Player of the Year in 2007, and Li Weifeng, who appeared at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea and currently captains the senior side.

Aiming for semis

Eight months prior to the Beijing Olympics and just under two years after their first gathering as a squad, “Team China” have now entered a decisive preparatory phase. The party is spending two weeks in Europe, moving on to France for further friendlies after facing Bayern.

Catapulted into the headlines by the imminent 2008 Games, the Chinese are targeting at least fourth place in the summer tournament. “That would be like winning the gold medal for us,” Dujkovic reported ahead of his side’s training workout at the Säbener Strasse on Thursday.

Result less important

The 61-year-old is keen for his young charges to offer convincing proof of their progress. “We’re proud to be here, playing one of the greatest clubs in the world,” Dujkovic remarked. Some 50,000 tickets for the Allianz Arena clash have already been sold, with the game set to be televised live on Chinese TV.

“We’ll try and give a decent account of ourselves. It’ll be a great test for us, although the result is of secondary importance. Our objective is to see how the team stands up against such strong opponents,” Dujkovic continued, “although there’ll be a few surprises for the Bayern defence.“

Lahm issues warning

Philipp Lahm warned his team-mates to beware the “hard-running, quick and flexible“ Chinese wingers: “They’re definitely a good team and they won’t be easy to beat.“ Andreas Ottl, a team-mate of Jansen’s with the Germany U-20s in 2005, tended to agree: “Remember how South Korea played in 2002. That’s what it’ll be like on Saturday.“