Coach leaves Team Dragon in sham­bles

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

CHINA’S na­tional foot­ball coach Gao Hongbo an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion after a 2-0 de­feat to Uzbek­istan left the peren­ni­ally un­der­achiev­ing side’s hopes of reach­ing Rus­sia 2018 hang­ing by a thread.

The loss in Tashkent on Oc­to­ber 11 left Team Dragon bot­tom of their third-stage qual­i­fy­ing group for the next World Cup, with only one point from four games. Only the top three of the six con­tenders will progress.

De­spite be­ing the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try and sec­ond-largest econ­omy, and money pour­ing into the do­mes­tic game after Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping de­clared am­bi­tions to host and one day win the World Cup, China re­main min­nows on the global foot­ball stage.

The team has only ever qual­i­fied for one World Cup and are cur­rently ranked a lowly 78th in the world by FIFA.

“I will leave the na­tional team be­cause of poor health,” Gao told a press con­fer­ence after the Uzbek­istan match, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency re­ported yes­ter­day.

But he ac­knowl­edged dis­cussing his fu­ture with Chi­nese Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion bosses be­fore the game, ac­cord­ing to the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion web­site.

“We agreed if we couldn’t reach a pos­i­tive re­sult against Uzbek­istan I would stand down from my post,” it quoted him as say­ing.

“As a re­sult of this de­feat, I bring an end to my time in charge of the China na­tional team.”

Gao, a for­mer striker for the na­tional team, pre­vi­ously man­aged the side in 2009-11 and was reap­pointed in Fe­bru­ary, after French­man Alain Per­rin was sacked fol­low­ing em­bar­rass­ing per­for­mances in­clud­ing a draw with Hong Kong.

Un­der Gao, China squeaked into the third round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing, but they en­dured a hu­mil­i­at­ing loss at home to war-torn Syria last week and their sole point so far came from a 0-0 draw with Iran.

“I hope the China na­tional team will be bet­ter in the fu­ture and we will meet in foot­ball again,” Gao said.

Gao “failed to mould an ef­fec­tive for­ma­tion nor play­ing style for the Chi­nese team”, Xin­hua said, adding that while there were six matches left in the stage, “the per­for­mances of the Chi­nese team have not given the fans any hope”.

But many fans de­fended Gao on so­cial me­dia, blam­ing the Chi­nese Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and the play­ers them­selves for the team’s woes.

“The men’s team is like rot­ten meat, and the coach is like the fridge. The meat al­ready stinks, but man­age­ment doesn’t think to toss it out for fresh stuff, it just keeps chang­ing the fridge,” wrote one user on the Twit­ter-like plat­form Weibo.

Gao’s brief ten­ure is even shorter than the av­er­age – since 2000 the side has had 10 coaches, five of them Eu­ro­pean and five Chi­nese.

Ear­lier this year Bei­jing is­sued a plan to make Team Dragon one of the world’s top sides by 2050, promis­ing 20,000 academies and 30 mil­lion ele­men­tary and mid­dle school pupils play­ing the sport within four years.

Fol­low­ing the blue­print would bring to life “the sports-su­per­power dream” and “na­tional re­vival dream”, it said.

But de­spite of­fi­cial back­ing and huge spend­ing by do­mes­tic club own­ers the na­tional team’s tra­vails make host­ing the World Cup look a far more re­al­is­tic goal than win­ning the com­pe­ti­tion, as China’s sole ap­pear­ance in 2002 ended with­out a sin­gle point or even a goal.

Chi­nese Su­per League clubs splashed more than 400 mil­lion eu­ros (US$447 mil­lion) on play­ers this year, lur­ing stars such as Liver­pool tar­get Alex Teix­eira.

China’s next match is at home to 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar next month. –

Photo: AFP

China’s for­mer coach Gao Hongbo re­signed yes­ter­day, say­ing he was leav­ing due to poor health. His side lost an em­bar­rass­ing match to Uzbek­istan the pre­vi­ous day.

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