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China's U-23 football manager Jankovic is confident ahead of Hangzhou 2022
CGTN
Aleksandar Jankovic (center), manager of the Chinese under-23 national football team, looks on during a training session in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. /Xinhua

Aleksandar Jankovic (center), manager of the Chinese under-23 national football team, looks on during a training session in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. /Xinhua

The Chinese under-23 (U-23) national football team has been training behind closed doors in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, since they returned home on April 3. Team manager Aleksandar Jankovic in an interview with Xinhua News Agency expressed confidence in his players for the two upcoming major tournaments – the EAFF E-1 Football Championship and 2022 Asian Games.

China scored just four goals while allowing six goals to finish with one win and one loss at the Dubai Cup in late March. Jankovic called the event a valuable test for the team, which had not participated in any major international events in three years.

Jankovic said he saw a lot of positive signs, such as the level of intensity exhibited in each game. Many of the players were not used to competing in international competitions. The Serbian manager believes they will grow to be ready mentally as they appear in more events like this.

Chinese under-23 nation football team players listen to their manager, Aleksandar Jankovic, during a training session in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. /Xinhua

Chinese under-23 nation football team players listen to their manager, Aleksandar Jankovic, during a training session in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. /Xinhua

When asked how he rated players' performance in the Dubai Cup, Jankovic said never rates them because 75 points and 99 points mean the same to him – neither is 100. He wants players to work hard and push their limits. If they find a problem in the game, they will try to solve it via training and practice.

Zhu Chenjie and Dai Junwei have joined the U-23 national team. Jankovic has never managed Zhu before but said he is a born leader. As for Dai, Jankovic said he is what a modern football team needs and can provide a different style of play as well as different options.

During the closed training camp, Jankovic has set a goal for players to cut their body fat percentage to below 9 before the 2022 Asian Games. There are already 10 players meeting the standard. Jankovic wants 16 to 17 players to do so by the time the Asian Games begin in September.

Aleksandar Jankovic (center), manager of the Chinese under-23 national football team, talks to his players during a training session in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. /Xinhua

Aleksandar Jankovic (center), manager of the Chinese under-23 national football team, talks to his players during a training session in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. /Xinhua

Each team is allowed to have three over-age players participate in the Asian Games. Wu Xi, Zhang Linpeng and Zhang Yuning have already joined the Chinese U-23 team. Jankovic has not arranged for them to attend any intense practices yet. The job of the three at the moment is to get familiar with the rest of the team.

The first challenge for Jankovic's team will be the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in Japan in July. Two months after that, the Chinese team will host Asian opponents at home in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, in September.

The two tournaments drew a lot of attention and pressure to the team. Jankovic said he loves such pressure because it's better than having no games to play in the previous three years. His players are very excited too and he has confidence in them to achieve a good result in both events.

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