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NANNING， China， Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Wang Jingbin scored the equalizer for China in the 89th minute before the hosts beat Croatia 5-4 after penalty shoot-outs to place the third in the 2017 Gree China Cup International Football Championship here on Saturday.
After Luka Ivanusec opened the account for Croatia in the 36th minute， Wang， who replaced Hui Jiakang in the 76th minute， swung in his equalizing header 13 minutes later， just on his second touch of the ball.
"The goal is a teamwork. I was just in the right place to finish the job，" said Wang， 21， who only made his debut as a professional footballer， "It's a good start for me. But I still have a long way to go."
China thus forced the match to the penalty shoot-outs. Antonio Perosevic hit his kick against the bar in the third attempt， before Croatian goalkeeper Andrej Prskalo blocked the shot from Fan Xiaodong.
Then the Chinese goalie Shi Xiaotian came on the stage as he stopped the effort of Josip Misic in the fifth round before Wang Jinxian made it to secure the victory for the hosts.
"Penalty is always lottery，" said Ante Cacic， head coach of Croatia. "We played much better in the match and should have finished the match earlier. China is luckier today. But this is just the beauty of football."
Croatia almost celebrated a good start， but Ivanusec's header just missed the target in the ninth minute. Later in the 36th minute， he received a pass from Fran Tudor and his low shot hit the back of the net. The midfielder had another chance to double the lead， but his long-range kick went wild seven minutes later.
Croatia， who replaced seven of its starters in Wednesday's loss to Chile， conceded few chances in the first half to the hosts. The home players could only launch some counter-attacks， with Yin Hongbo the most dangerous， but his shot also failed to find the net in the 14th minute.
The match also marked the first goal as well as the first win for Marcello Lippi after he was appointed on Oct. 22 last year to guide the Chinese national team.
Lippi made two substitutions after the break， and his disciples responded with their first clear-cut chance in the 59th minute.
During the second half， Chinese goalie Shi countinued to dive for his saves while the visitors wasted their chances time and again. After Wang scored the equalizer， Shi made another huge effort， blocking the last shot of Franko Andrijasevic in 90th minute to force the match into penalty kicks.
"We met a very tough opponent today but we never gave up，" said Lippi， "I want to thank all my players. They played quite better in the second half and it's lucky for us to win on penalties. What surprises me most is that we played like a team in the second half."
"As a coach， I want to build confidence in my players. I want to tell them that as long as they contribute all they have on the court， they will face all opponents without fear. It doesn't mean that we can win all matches， but we shall fear no one in matches，" said Lippi.
"Wang played for only about 15 minutes， so I think it's difficult for me to tell what kind of player he is，" Lippi spoke of scorer Wang Jingbin， "but he scored a goal and a penalty. This is just fascinating."
It's the first win for China after it beat Trinidad and Tobago 4-2 in a friendly in June last year， and Wang also became the first scorer after China lost to South Korea 3-2 in its 2018 World Cup qualifier in Seoul on Sept. 1.
On March 23， China will play South Korea again on home turf in Changsha for their World Cup qualifier.
The China Cup， launched by the Wanda Group and the Chinese Football Association， is an A-grade international event acknowledged by world football governing body FIFA. It is widely regarded as an important platform for the host team to hone their skills ahead of what remains a long-shot bid for Russia 2018.
Wanda Group， a top sponsor of FIFA and instrumental in getting the China Cup off the ground， has been at the forefront of China's push to be a world football power.
"We hope that the China Cup will become a great platform for the Chinese national team to play against top-class teams in the world， and also a great opportunity to promote the development of the sports industry in China，" Wanda Group President Wang Jianlin said during an earlier event to promote the tournament.
Wanda has also sealed a series of high profile sports investments to build up its sports business arm. It now owns a 20 percent stake in Spanish club Atletico Madrid， has acquired the organizer of the Ironman Triathlon races， World Triathlon Corp， along with Swiss-based sports marketing firm Infront.
The inaugural four-team China Cup was opened on Tuesday night in the capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region， with the final slated for Sunday between Chile and Iceland.
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