World Cup qualifying: Hong Kong defies logic to draw with China

    (CNN)Hong Kong continues to punch above its weight in World Cup qualifying after it claimed a 0-0 draw against China in Shenzhen.

    China's 1.4 billion population might dwarf Hong Kong's 7.2 million, but it was the former British colony that got the better of a side ranked nearly 70 places above it in the FIFA rankings as the two teams chase a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
    Hong Kong is a small piece of land colonized by the British in 1841 and returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
      Ruled under the principle of "One country, two systems," Hong Kong is officially part of China, but is allowed rights and freedoms unseen in other Chinese cities as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). But Beijing has so far refused to grant a key privilege: Free and open elections for their own leader.
      It was against that backdrop that the two teams met in Shenzhen in front of 26,173 fans. Ninety minutes later China must have been wondering quite how they hadn't managed to win.
      China hit the woodwork four times in the first half and had 41 shots on goal, while Hong Kong had to clear the ball off their own line a number of times.
      Yet the 84th ranked team in the world couldn't score ensuring the 2,000 visiting Hong Kong fans departed very happy.
      Having thrashed Bhutan 7-0 and the Maldives 2-0, Hong Kong now lie top of Asian qualifying Group C with seven points, though they have played a game more than their rivals.
      "You can say it was a blessed night for Hong Kong," Hong Kong's coach, Kim Pangon, told the South China Morning Post.
      "I am very proud of the players -- even though we are in preseason we gave our best to hold the opponents. They gave all their and fought for the name of Hong Kong soccer.
      "China created a number of good chances in the first half, but our players continued to fight under difficult conditions. That's more important than luck."
      The result leaves China in third place in the group behind Hong Kong and Qatar.
      "It was disappointing that we failed to win the match at home," said China manager Alain Perrin, who has previously coached Portsmouth and Marseille during his 22-year managerial career.
      "But it was not one of the most frustrating games of my career. This kind of game you can lose, you can get a long ball or corner and concede at any time so though one point is not enough, I know it could have been worse."
      China has only qualified for one World Cup, in 2002.
      Arguably they were helped in reaching that tournament as it was jointly held by Japan and South Korea, who as hosts qualified automatically, thereby freeing up more spaces for other Asian teams.
      China has hopes of becoming a soccer powerhouse and despite it's one billion plus population that ambition could take time.
      The one-child policy imposed on many Chinese families, in addition to a tradition of separating sports and academic disciplines, has limited youth participation in some sports.
      "Educators have done their best to keep sports out of the education system," Tom Byer, an American soccer coach who is well known for grassroots soccer training in Asia, told CNN earlier this year.
      "They see it as a fundamental distraction from learning."
      With only one child, the risk of injury and academic pressure means families often keep their kids away from contact sports.
      Furthermore, the positive aspects of sports are not promoted in China.
        "Moms and dads want their kid to get a good education, because they see education, rather than sports, as a pathway for success and mobility up the socio-economic ladder" Byer added.
        Earlier this year, Byer was hired by the Chinese government to run a pilot project in a Beijing elementary school with the China School Football program, a state-funded initiative making football compulsory in schools.