The Hong Kong national football team won a narrow 1-0 victory against Maldives in their World Cup Qualifier match on Thursday.

Hong Kong has therefore retained its second place in the group, but has played one more match than the others. This result comes ahead of a clash with China – currently third in the group – on November 17 at Mong Kok Stadium.

On Monday, the Hong Kong team flew to Male, capital of Maldives, despite the fact that a state of emergency was in force. Although this status was cancelled the day before the match, military officers were still standing guard at the stadium to ensure security.

Goal scorer Paulinho (left) and striker Chan Siu-ki
Goal scorer Paulinho (left) and striker Chan Siu-ki. Photo: HKFA.

Hong Kong secured its only goal early in the first half through a penalty kick, scored by newly naturalised player “Paulinho” Paulo Carreiro, who collected his Hong Kong passport in October and earned his first cap in the match.

Maldives tried to counter-attack and managed a few threats on goal, but these were all blocked by goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai or were off-target.

Hong Kong's Cheung Kin-fung against Maldives players.
Hong Kong’s Cheung Kin-fung against Maldives players. Photo: HKFP.

Coach Kim Pan-gon told Apple Daily that he was satisfied with his players, that it was an important match and that he had expected the away game to be difficult, but the Hong Kong team defended well and controlled the match.

After the team returned to Hong Kong on Friday morning he also told local media that the most important thing for the team now is for the players to rest and recover before the clash with China.

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Meanwhile, China beat Bhutan in a whopping 12-0 victory on Thursday.

Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said on a RTHK radio programme that the match against China would be challenging.

“Even if we get a draw, we cannot move on to the next stage, we have to win.”

He added that if Hong Kong maintained second place after all the matches in the round robin game, the chance for Hong Kong to go to the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018 would depend on the points secured by the teams in second place in the other groups.

Leung also said that FIFA, football’s international governing body, will send a crew to Hong Kong to film the match, the first time it has done so in the city. He said he believed it will be to record the actions of the fans.

More than 200 fans watched the match at Hong Kong Polytechnic University via a live stream
More than 200 fans watched the match at Hong Kong Polytechnic University via a live stream. Photo: HKFP

He added that FIFA has arranged for a referee who has officiated at a World Cup final match, which reflected the fact that the football authority will be taking the match very seriously. He urged the fans to remain calm.

In October, HKFA was fined CHF5,000 (HK$39,678) by FIFA, after a Hong Kong fan threw a 250-millilitre carton of lemon tea onto the field during Hong Kong’s match against Qatar on September 8.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.