Bora's boys are well beaten

 

China - 0 Costa Rica - 2At least 500 million people in China were expected to watch their country's World Cup debut on TV. It is a fair bet that rather fewer were still tuned in at the finish. Only the bravest ought to return to the sofa on Saturday for their game against Brazil.

China were not disgraced yesterday but were deservedly beaten by a mediocre Costa Rica, and could easily have lost by four goals. If Brazil are in the mood on Jeju island at the weekend, Bora Milutinovic's team could be ripped apart.

Milutinovic worked another of his wonders to qualify China for the tournament and has organised the team as best he can. But a lack of quality, poise and experience at both ends means their first visit to the World Cup will, to no one's great surprise, be short.

Two Costa Rica goals shortly after the hour decided a match littered with errors. There could be no doubting China's workrate, but they rarely looked like scoring. With Costa Rica at Italia '90, Milutinovic suffered only a 1-0 defeat by Brazil.

This time the damage will surely be greater. With Fan Zhiyi, their key defender, playing through ankle trouble, and Sun Jihai absent injured, Milutinovic may well opt for a conservative formation.

In the event, 27,217 people turned up here, including locals and a smattering from Costa Rica. The atmosphere never had the intensity it had promised.

Not that travelling has been cheap or easy for the Chinese. Short-stay tours for one match cost €500-€800, more than the average urban household's annual disposable income. The authorities also demanded that some leave bonds of thousands of dollars to ensure they return.

Everton's manager, David Moyes, was in the crowd and his principal target, Li Tie, showed fight and produced some smooth simple passing. But he was also turned in the lead-up to the second goal.

The key figure was Costa Rica's Ronald Gomez, who scored after 61 minutes and soon set up the second for Mauricio Wright.

The disappointing Yang Chen had snatched at China's best chance shortly before Paulo Wanchope helped Costa Rica take the lead. The Manchester City forward fastened on to Gomez's flick and had a shot blocked, Gomez reacting to score.

When Gomez received a short corner and crossed for Wright to head in at the near post it was game over, and Costa Rica should have had more.

"It will be a dream to play against Brazil," Milutinovic said.

The danger, though, is that it will turn into a nightmare.

SUBSTITUTES - China: Qu for Sun (26 mins) Yu for Fan (74 mins). Costa Rica: Medford for Fonseca (57 mins), Bryce for Wallace (70 mins), Lopez for Wanchope (80 mins).

YELLOW CARDS - China: Ti L, Xu. Costa Rica: Marin, Solis, Centeno