World Cup hopes all but over for another four years
It's another huge disappointment for China's long-suffering soccer fans, but this time around an expensively hired foreign coach will not, it appears, get the bullet for the team's almost certain elimination from the World Cup at the qualifying stage.
The Chinese Football Administration (CFA) insists Jose Antonio Camacho will not be sacked despite a defeat to Iraq that all but killed off their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
A 1-0 defeat in Doha on Friday means China need to win both their remaining games by big margins and hope Iraq lose both theirs to have any hope of making the final qualifying round. Since reaching their first World Cup in 2002, China have been in the doldrums. Their wait for a second tournament looks set to continue for at least another four years.
Former Real Madrid coach Camacho was hired in August on a three-year deal reported to be worth 30 million yuan (HK$36.8 million) a year. His reign has been unimpressive, losing three out of four qualifiers.
But Yu Hongchen, deputy director of the Chinese Football Administration Centre, insisted Camacho's position was secure.
'We hired Camacho not just for the World Cup qualifiers, but to help develop the sport here and raise a new generation of footballers,' he said. 'Camacho has shown his professionalism in teaching our players a lot of advanced ideas and skills. But helping the Chinese players to grasp the philosophy of football has really been the biggest achievement.'
Assuming China fail to reach the next stage, they will have no significant games for two years, when qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup begins, but Yu insisted Camacho will play an important role in building up the mainland's youth soccer system.
National team captain Li Weifeng said it was unfair to blame Camacho, since he had just 80 days to train the team before the qualifiers.
Li said a lack of enthusiasm for soccer on the mainland was partly to blame. He said Beijing had failed to cultivate the sport and the mainland lacked the facilities and support needed for a stronger soccer culture.