BEIJING, June 15 (Reuters) - China coach Zhu Guanghu has left top domestic scorer Li Jinyu out of his 23-man squad for next month’s Asian Cup, local media reported on Friday.
Former English Premier League players Zheng Zhi, Li Tie and Sun Jihai were included in an experienced squad for the finals, which take place in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia from July 7-29.
“Li Jinyu is a talented striker,” Zhu told local media. “But he is not in top form and is unlikely to pose any sort of threat to our rivals in the Asian Cup.”
Li Jinyu, who scored 26 goals for Chinese Super League champions Shandong Luneng last season and has added another five this term, said he understood the decision and would work harder to prove he was worth a recall.
“I still believe I am the best forward in China,” the 29-year-old said on his blog.
China were runners-up to Japan at the last Asian Cup in 2004 but their recent form has been poor with defeats by Australia, Thailand and the U.S. prompting calls for Zhu’s dismissal.
“The target of reaching the last four hasn’t changed,” said Zhu, who also put seven players on standby.
Manchester United striker Dong Fangzhuo is one of five forwards in the squad, while former Everton and Sheffield United midfielder Li Tie’s call-up is something of a surprise given his recent form.
“He has a spiritual presence in the team even if he is on the bench,” Zhu said of the 29-year-old.
China play their opening match of the finals against co-hosts Malaysia on July 10 and also face Iran and Uzbekistan in Group C. Squad:
Goalkeepers - Li Leilei, Yang Jun
Defenders - Du Wei, Sun Xiang, Zhang Yaokun, Li Weifeng, Sun Jihai, Zhang Shuai, Ji Mingyi, Cao Yang
Midfielders - Shao Jiayi, Li Tie, Zheng Zhi, Zhao Xuri, Wang Dong, Zhou Haibin, Zheng Bin, Mao Jianqing
Forwards - Han Peng, Dong Fangzhuo, Zhu Ting, Qu Bo, Wang Peng
On standby - Xin Feng, Li Yan, Xu Yunlong, Du Zhenyu, Tao Wei, Chen Dong, Zong Lei