Caltex Socceroos in China: form update

When the Caltex Socceroos take on Greece in Sydney and Melbourne over the coming days, there may well be a few curious people back in China checking out the result, performance and fitness levels of the growing number of Australian internationals who are based in the Chinese Super League.

Four head down under from China,to be joined by Nathan Burns from FC Tokyo. All were in action for their clubs last week as Australia went down 2-1 to England at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland but are now fully focused on international duties.

Tim Cahill is still the headline act as he nears 50 goals for his country. The former English Premier League star tweaked a hamstring while in action for Hangzhou Greentown but should be fit.

Cahill: Socceroos 'amazing' against England

It has been a struggle so far this season for Hangzhou with the team languishing just above the relegation zone though new coach Hong Myung-bo has been trying to change things around with what is a young team. 

Ange Postecoglou and Tim Cahill during a Caltex Socceroos training session.

Performances have been slowly improving of late however. A narrow 1-0 defeat to Shanghai SIPG was followed by a creditable 1-1 with another title-chasing team Jiangsu Suning.

Cahill got on the scoresheet against the star-studded men from Nanjing for his third of the season and the first away points for the men from south of Shanghai. 

The Chinese media never misses an opportunity to write in wonder at the jumping ability of this 36 year-old.

His contract was only for half a season and ends in July. It could well be that he moves to another club in China. 

While in public, Hangzhou are staying non-committal about the player's future, coach Hong values Cahill's leadership, experience as well as much-needed goals.

Matthew Spiranovic, Cahill's team-mate at Hangzhou was called up, but misses out through injury, meaning Milos Degenek gets another chance to impress. 

Trent Sainsbury was in the Jiangsu defence when Cahill struck last weekend with another of his trademark headers but it was just the sixth goal the team has conceded all season. That defence is keeping the team near the top.

Trent Sainsbury on the ball for Socceroos against Jordan in March.

“Jiangsu is great,” Sainsbury said in May. 

“I'm here with my partner and dog so we are always looking to get out and about. I'm discovering new and exciting things to see and do in the city on days off.”

Sainsbury feels a first title is possible. “I think we can win it this year with some luck. Next year will be the biggest test for us when we are expected to do well in all cups and competitions we enter.”

Apostolos Giannou will surely enjoy the opportunity of facing the country of his birth and the country he represented at youth level. 

Since reinventing himself as a central striker after his former days in midfield, he will be looking to get on the field and on the scoresheet.

He has yet to do so in China though his career with Guangzhou R&F is in its early stages. The 26 year-old has yet to find the target since arriving in southern China in February.

Apostolos Giannou celebrates a goal with teammate Bailey Wright.

Perhaps the surprise of the Chinese season so far has been Henan Jianye. The team sits in fifth, just behind the big spending leading quartet. 

Ryan McGowan has played his part in ensuring that the northerners have lost just three times this season, two of which came against Guangzhou Evergrande and Jiangsu.

McGowan has helped Henan stay very solid at the back and after a past spell with Shandong Luneng has adapted in no time at all.

“He's a been a very good addition to the team that was almost relegated last season,” said Titan Sports Weekly, a leading publication earlier this month. 

“His experience has really helped the team settle at the back. He has a great attitude and will to win that spreads throughout the team.”

Defender Ryan McGowan celebrates scoring in the Chinese Super League.

Aside from China, Nathan Burns has been finding playing time a little hard to come by in the J.League for FC Tokyo with just three starts - though he has four in the AFC Champions League.

The Gasmen missed out on a quarter-final spot thanks to a last-minute goal from Shanghai SIPG.

After missing out against England, Australia's Asian contingent will be hoping to show what they can do against Greece in the Dodoni Series.