Hong Kong billed as ‘more creative’ after boss’ exit as Iran visit for Fifa World Cup qualifier

  • Stand-in coach Wolfgang Luisser vows to tweak formula that worked under Jorn Andersen in qualifiers against Iran and Turkmenistan
Paul McNamara

Paul McNamara

6 Jun 2024

A “more flexible and creative” Hong Kong representative team has been promised by stand-in coach Wolfgang Luisser when the city’s footballers begin the post-Jorn Andersen era against Iran on Thursday.

The World Cup qualifier at Hong Kong Stadium will be the hosts’ first fixture since June 2021 without Andersen in the dugout, with former assistant Luisser stepping in after the Norwegian resigned last week to take charge of mainland Chinese club Yunnan Yukun.

“The biggest game for me as a head coach” was a simple enough assessment for Luisser given his top-level experience amounts to two 2019 matches as caretaker of SCR Altach in his native Austria. But a strong CV includes six years as assistant coach of Austria’s under-21s.

Hongkongers could reimagine what was possible during Andersen’s 2½-year reign, as an aggressive style delivered unprecedented results. While retaining traits that made Hong Kong a more competitive force, Luisser plans to do things his way, starting against Iran then away to Turkmenistan on Tuesday.

Wolfgang Luisser (left) plans to refine Hong Kong’s playing style in his matches in charge. Photo: Edmond So

Hong Kong netted only once in Andersen’s final five games, after 18 goals in the previous seven matches had appeared to draw a line under prolonged scoring issues.

“There will be a small change in our play with the ball,” Luisser said. “We want to give our players more creativity in attack, [and] be more flexible. We will change a little bit on set-pieces, too.

“We don’t want to change too much, because the players know what to do, but [there are] some small adjustments.

“Against the ball, our pressing and high attack will stay the same.”

Luisser said both offensive and defensive set-pieces would be tweaked, with attacking ploys a focus of the team’s final training session at the stadium on Wednesday.

“I cannot go into too much detail, because the opposition are listening,” Luisser said.

The interim boss must do without some key figures for his two games in charge. A number of players are missing while they arrange club contracts for next season, but forward Stefan Pereira put his hand up to play despite originally having no insurance following his release from Southern.

Luisser said: “It was clear he wanted to be part of the squad, with or without [insurance] … the Hong Kong FA gave him insurance for this period.”

A spokesman for the governing body was unable to confirm this was the case. Fifa has been approached for comment.

The Post has been told by a number of sources that X-factor attacker Everton Camargo was excluded after his request to feature only against Iran was refused.

Luisser insisted Camargo was missing for “family reasons”, and offered the same regarding the absent Jacky Leung Nok-hang. Leung, who would be a shoo-in at center-half, has played only twice for Hong Kong since September.

The withdrawals opened the door for Timothy Ma Hei-wai and Anthony Pinto. Ma, 20, was last week crowned Hong Kong young player of the season, along with Eastern teammate Jesse Yu Joy-yin.

The 18-year-old Pinto was selected despite his release from English League One club Bolton Wanderers.

“They bring fresh energy,” Luisser said of the new faces. Hong Kong cannot progress in the World Cup, but Luisser said the team want to “give something back to the fans and finish the qualifiers on a high”.

Anthony Pinto (right) has impressed following his first Hong Kong call-up. Photo: Edmond So

Iran are into the next phase, but coach Amir Ghalenoei said he would field his strongest team for Fifa ranking points and to try to top the group.

When Ghalenoei was asked how his players avoided being distracted by political turmoil at home, Iran media officials stepped in. The team’s translator said: “We are here for football and don’t want to talk about the political things.”

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