China’s under-23s crashed out of the AFC U-23 Championships after losing to Qatar in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, on Monday afternoon. The hosts’ hopes of reaching the knockout rounds for the first time received a boost when they took the lead in the 4th minute through Yao Junsheng after good work by Deng Hanwen. A red card on 41 minutes for captain He Chao for his second bookable offence reduced China to 10 men. This was quickly followed by an Almoez Ali goal just before half-time, leaving China with an uphill struggle to reach the knockout stages. Massimiliano Maddaloni’s side’s task was then made more difficult thanks to Ali’s second strike with 13 minutes left. Despite full national team members Zhang Yuning, on loan at Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, and Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande’s new signing Deng making their first starts of the tournament, the hosts fell short. Those two joined teammates Wei Shihao, Gao Zhunyi and captain He in having full international honours but their combined experience wasn’t enough. On the positive side, this year was China’s best performance on this stage, getting their first points and first win by beating Oman 3-0 in their opening game. Qatar qualify for the quarter-finals with a perfect record of three wins from three. In the other group A game, Uzbekistan beat Oman 1-0, a result that ensured even a draw would not have been good enough to take China through to the last eight. The victory saw the Uzbeks qualify with Qatar as runners-up. Some of China’s under-23s may find themselves selected for Marcello Lippi’s China Cup squad in March. The hosts play Wales in the four-team tournament in Nanning on March 22.