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Chinese Super League interest in
World Cup ends with Belgium exit   

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- The shock announcement a week ago that Brazilian midfielder Paulinho was leaving Barcelona after just one season to return to Guangzhou Evergrande put the Chinese Super League in the headlines; not easy during the World Cup finals.

There were nine players participating in Russia who now ply their trade in China, helping to give more credibility to a competition which is gaining in strength every season, but is still seen by some as the jungle for a player’s international hopes.

That was the opinion of young Uruguay striker Maxi Gomez, who opted to stay at Celta Vigo in January to further his international aspirations and he was partly successful, with a good season in Spain and a place in the Uruguay squad which reached the quarterfinals.

Paulinho clearly thinks differently and playing in China didn’t damage his chances of forming part of the Brazil side before his year with Barcelona. Nor has it harmed the chances of his teammate Renato Augusto, who made three substitute appearances in this World Cup and scored the header which gave his side momentary hope as they lost their quarterfinal 2-1 to Belgium.

Playing for Belgium was Yannick Carrasco, another player who took the opposite view to Maxi Gomez in January when he left Atletico Madrid to play for Dalian Yifang.

Carrasco remains a key part of the Belgium side which thrilled everyone on their way to the semifinals although he had to be content with a substitute appearance in their 1-0 defeat to France.

Tianjin Quanjian’s Axel Witsel benefited from Belgium coach Roberto Martinez’s plans in the same game, starting in central midfield and producing another typical battling display against Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

Portuguese central defender Jose Fonte is a teammate of Carrasco at Dalian Yifang and although you could argue the 34-year-old saw a move to China as the chance for one last big payday, his international career didn’t suffer and he was a key part of the side which qualified for the knockout round.

Javier Mascherano, another La Liga escape in January when he joined Hebei Fortune, was a fixture for Argentina as they limped through to the last 16. The years caught up with the ‘Jefecito’ in Russia and although his courage was unfailing, his pace let him down. He has since announced his retirement from international football.

No one knows how far Jon Obi Mikel’s Nigeria could have gone had they not narrowly lost to Argentina in their last group game. Mikel played that vital game just hours after receiving a call to tell him his father had been kidnapped, a secret he kept to himself for what must have been a traumatic 90 minutes.

Meanwhile Changchun Yatai’s Odion Ighalo failed to set the World Cup on fire and ended up without a goal in one start and two substitute appearances.

Kim Young-Gwon, who will soon link up again with Paulinho at Guangzhou Evergrande, was a fixture in the South Korean defense, playing all 90 minutes of every game, including their historic win against Germany.

Those big name players playing in China have more or less lived up to their reputation, nevertheless, if the Chinese Super League is to improve its status, it needs to attract more young players like Carrasco, rather than veterans like Fonte and Mascherano, who can add experience, but whose presence will only ever be short-lived.

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EARLIER REPORT:

China police smash over 100 football betting rings during World Cup

BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- Chinese police have handled more than 300 football gambling cases and busted over 100 football betting rings during the ongoing World Cup, said the Ministry of Public Security Tuesday.

Betting slips involved in the cases exceeded 1 billion yuan (151 million U.S. dollars), said the ministry.

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