DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Brazil-born striker Elkeson struck twice on his debut to give China a crushing 5-0 win over Maldives in a World Cup qualifier in Male on Tuesday.
Chinese football authorities included the 30-year-old in the national side last month in a bid to improve their chances of qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar and Elkeson lived up to expectations by netting two penalties late in the Group A match at the Rasmee Dhandu Stadium.
Despite its clout as a global sporting and financial power, China had qualified in the World Cup only once, leading to a change in policy that now allows naturalized foreign-born players to play for the national team.
“We want to go to Qatar 2022 World Cup,” Chen Xuyuan, new president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), was quoted as saying by state media last month.
“Naturalized players can be helpful in order to achieve the national team’s short-term goals.
“Up to now, clubs have registered nine naturalized players with or without Chinese heritage at the CFA in total, some of them are still going through the naturalization process.”
China dominated the game and was 2-0 up at halftime with Wu Xi and Wu Lei finding the net in the 34th and 45th minute, respectively.
They won three straight penalties with Yang Xu first scoring from the spot in the 65th minute before Elkeson made his mark with seven minutes remaining and claimed his double in stoppage time to complete the rout.