Wu Lei called home as China prepares for World Cup qualifiers

Society & Culture

China sits eight points behind Syria in its group with four games to play.

The great hope of Chinese men’s soccer, forward Wǔ Lěi 武磊, is being called home. Currently the only national teamer playing abroad, Wu has been told to leave Espanyol ahead of a crucial stretch of World Cup qualifiers.

Barcelona-based Espanyol shouldn’t have a big problem with Wu’s departure. Espanyol, currently playing in Spain’s second division, clinched promotion back to Li Liga on May 8 with a 0-0 draw.

Wu has had a difficult season, starting just eight times during the current campaign — causing Chinese commentators to call for him to return. He has made 31 appearances and scored twice in league games. This past Friday, Wu made his first start since December 2 in a 2-0 loss to Cartagena. He had a fairly unremarkable game and was substituted early in the second half, with his side trailing.

The 29-year-old returns to China’s national team for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, with his last national team appearance coming in November 2019. This will also be the first time Wu has played under manager Lǐ Tiě 李铁.

Wu is the second all-time goalscorer in Chinese Super League history. He will need to find his golden touch in China’s upcoming games against Guam, Philippines, Maldives, and Syria. China needs to win all four if it wants a chance to catch current table-toppers Syria.

Syria is currently 5-0 in the second round Group A qualifiers. China is 2-1-1, and sits eight points back. If Syria wins its next two games, it will clinch the group before its final group game against China.

The four best runners-up across eight groups will go to the third and final round of qualifying, so China doesn’t have to win Group A. Either way, making it to the next round will be a tall task.

All the remaining fixtures will be hosted in Suzhou from May 30 to June 15.

Five naturalized players — Brazilian-born Ài Kèsēn 艾克森 (Elkeson), Ā Lán 阿兰 (Alan Carvalho), Fèi Nánduō 费南多 (Fernandinho), and English-born Jiǎng Guāngtài 蒋光太 (Tyias Browning) and Lǐ Kě 李可 (Nico Yennaris) — have also been called up to Li’s 26-man squad.

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Kris Wu claims podium in GT3 debut

Via Instagram

Chinese-Canadian actor, singer, and model Kris Wu (吴亦凡 Wú Yìfán) finished third on his Porsche GT3 race debut in the Am+ category in the inaugural GT Super Sprint Challenge Cup opening round at Shanghai International Circuit.

It’s a pretty niche series, designed for Porsche motorsport enthusiasts and various dealerships around China — and Wu has brought a spotlight to the series never before seen.

Racing for Absolute Racing in the Porsche Super Sprint Challenge series, the celebrity also claimed the fastest lap of the race. As an amateur driver, Wu races in his own category against other amateur drivers, often wealthy patrons who support the financing of the teams.

Wu debuted in motorsports at the start of last season in the slower GT4 category as part of the Porsche Sports Cup Asia series.

The Porsche racing series was canceled early into last season due to the pandemic. The Porsche cups, which usually race across Asia, will be restricted to China this year, with a potential stop in Singapore.

The usual international driver lineup has been replaced with an almost entirely Chinese lineup, with only one foreign team appearing this season.

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