Ex-Arsenal midfielder Li Ke makes impressive China debut in Philippines win
Li Ke became the first naturalized footballer to represent China when the former Arsenal reserve started in a 2-0 home win over the Philippines on Friday.
Li started for China and played a quality 55 minutes on his debut. The 26-year-old midfielder received loud applause from some 40,000 spectators.
"Li played a very good team football in his debut," China's coach Marcello Lippi said after the match.
"He involved himself well and had a very good concentration during the match," the Italian added.
The London-born midfielder was named Nico Yennaris before moving to Beijing, and his mother is Chinese. Known in China as Li Ke, there has been intense interest in his assimilation and he is taking Mandarin lessons -- he still gives interviews in English but appeared to have learned the words to the national anthem.
Li Ke said that he was "very proud" to win his first cap for China.
"I learned that (the national anthem) when I first came, so it's step by step.
"I'll continue my studies and hopefully in a few months I'll be able to do an interview in Chinese maybe."
The friendly against the Philippines in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was also notable for the return as coach of Marcello Lippi.
Head coach Lippi gives praise to Li Ke's China debut. /VCG Photo

Head coach Lippi gives praise to Li Ke's China debut. /VCG Photo

The 71-year-old Italian World Cup winner left the post at the end of January after a 3-0 defeat to Iran in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup.
But following a failed stint by compatriot Fabio Cannavaro, Lippi is back at the helm and targeting qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Midfielder Wu Xi prodded past Denmark-born goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard in the 14th minute to make it 1-0. Zhang Xizhe added another on 54 minutes after poorer Philippine defending. The Philippines were reduced to 10 men soon after when Daisuke Sato earned a second yellow card.
The 71-year-old was satisfied with his new team, despite the absence of strikers Wu Lei and Gao Lin.
"The team showed a good spirit. What we did during the match was exactly the same in training. This is the most important," said Lippi.
China host Tajikistan in another friendly on Tuesday as they build up to qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. 
(With input from AFP, Xinhua)