Nico Yennaris
Nico Yennaris Image Credit: AFP

Beijing: London-born midfielder Nico Yennaris, the first naturalised footballer to play for China, was surprisingly dropped from new coach Li Tie’s national squad on Monday.

The 26-year-old was not named in Li’s squad for a training camp in the UAE ahead of World Cup qualifiers in Thailand next month against the Maldives and Guam.

It was not immediately clear why Yennaris, who now goes by the Chinese name Li Ke and plays for Beijing Guoan, misses out.

The former Arsenal and England youth player made history when he made his debut for China in June last year. Yennaris, whose mother is Chinese, has won five caps.

Brazil-born forward Elkeson, the first player with no Chinese blood to represent China, was included in Li’s 26-man squad and will hope to win his fifth and sixth caps against Maldives on March 26 and Guam on March 31.

Also included is Espanyol forward Wu Lei, widely regarded as China’s best player.

The World Cup qualifiers — Li’s first matches since being permanently named as coach in January — will take place in Thailand because of the new coronavirus outbreak in China.