China coach Perrin sweating on Zheng fitness

China may have to play the mouth-watering Asian Cup last-eight tie versus Australia without captain Zheng Zhi due to a back injury.

Alain Perrin is hopeful that captain Zheng Zhi can shake off a back injury sustained in China's 2-1 victory over North Korea in time to face Australia in the Asian Cup quarter-final.

Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Zheng was named in the starting XI at Canberra Stadium on Sunday, even though he would have been suspended for the last-eight tie had he been booked.

The former Charlton Athletic man may not be able to face the Socceroos on Thursday anyway, with head coach Perrin confirming that he was brought off in the first half with a back complaint.

"Zheng's got a little problem in his back and there were some other important players we didn't let play because of little issues," Perrin said. 

"We hope it's not that bad and I hope they recover before the next game.

"Zheng Zhi is a key player and very important as he is an experienced player who helps organise the team.

"After he left the field we had trouble in our organisation in the middle of the field.

"It is obvious if you don't have the key players on the pitch you will have difficulties."

China finished top of Group B after winning all three of their pool matches, the first time they have achieved that feat in their Asian Cup history.

Sun Ke was the star against North Korea with a brace and Perrin paid tribute to the forward.

"Sun Ke is a very good player and has strong self-confidence," he added. "He is a very young player with a good spirit so I think he's an important and helpful part of the team.

"He is good with both feet, can shoot and is a threat on goal, this is important because we do not have too much going forward so it makes me plan and build up this kind of strategy that all attacking players can shoot and score."