China PR have confirmed the inclusion of Brazil-born strike Elkeson in their preliminary squad for September’s 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Elkeson is part of the 35-member squad called up by China head coach Marcello Lippi as Team Dragon prepare for their 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round opener against Maldives in Male on September 10.
Guangzhou Evergrande forward Elkeson is the first player without Chinese heritage to be called up to the Chinese national team. Elkeson has been named as Ai Kesen, his new Chinese name, in the 35-member list and becomes the 90th Brazilian to represent another country by changing their nationality.
Could naturalised players make China a football powerhouse?
He is joined by England-born Nico Yennaris (a.k.a. Li Ke), whose mother is of Chinese origin, in the list.
Espanyol striker Wu Lei is another player who headlines the squad, but Lippi has surprisingly dropped some veteran players in the form of Guangzhou duo — Gao Lin and Feng Xiaoting — as well as Beijing Guoan FC forward Yu Dabao.
China are in Group A of the World Cup Qualifiers where they are pooled with Guam, Maldives, Philippines and Syria.
China’s 35-member preliminary squad for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
Wu Lei (Espanyol), Liao Junjian (Wuhan Zall), Yang Fan (Tianjin TEDA), Feng Jing (Chongqing Dangdai Lifan FC), Han Xuan (Henan Jianye), Li Shuai (Dalian Yifang), Zhang Lu, Yang Xu, Yao Junsheng (all Tianjin Tianhai), Zhu Chenjie (Shanghai Shenhua), Tao Qianglong, Wang Qiuming (both Hebei China Fortune), Xie Pengfei, Abduhamit Abdugheni, Wu Xi (all Jiangsu Suning), Wang Ziming, Zhang Xizhe, Nico Yennaris, Chi Zhongguo, Li Lei, Wang Gang, Zou Dehai (all Beijing Guoan), Wang Dalei, Hao Junmin (both Shandong Luneng), Yang Liyu, Wei Shihao, Gao Zhunyi, Xu Xin, Huang Bowen, Elkeson, Zhang Linpeng, Zheng Zhi (all Guangzhou Evergrande), Yan Junling, He Guan, Shi Ke (Shanghai SIPG).