China chief Wei Di cautiously optimistic

BEIJING - China's newly appointed football chief praised the national side's East Asian championship triumph on Monday but underlined the need to build on the achievement.

Wei Di, who took over at the helm at the Chinese Football Association last month when his predecessor was fired amid a match-fixing probe, said China had made great strides.

"I can see that this team is improving all the time," Wei told China's state-run Xinhua news agency. "I hope we maintain our fighting spirit."

China won the four-team tournament with seven points from three games ahead of World Cup-bound South Korea and hosts Japan.

The Chinese held Japan to a goalless draw before stunning South Korea 3-0 to record their first win over their opponents since the countries began playing full internationals in 1978.

A 2-0 win over Hong Kong on Sunday's final day ultimately proved good enough to give China their second East Asian title when South Korea beat Japan 3-1.

"Being top in the EAFF (East Asian Football Federation) championship doesn't mean anything if we can't maintain this form," cautioned Wei.

"What matters the most is stability and (sustaining this form). Japan and (South) Korea have been very stable in recent years.

"They have set a high standard for the rest of Asia to follow. We need to look far (ahead) and not only be satisfied with this short-term success."

China qualified for their first World Cup finals in 2002 under Serbian Bora Milutinovic but lost all three matches and failed to reach the 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

"At times we were too desperate to win," Wei added. "We committed too many errors. We are still not patient and mature enough in certain situations."

China coach Gao Hongbo echoed his boss's sentiments but insisted the future was bright.

"We used to struggle to beat lower-ranked teams - we're taught in China as children not to bully those weaker than you," he joked.

"But we're learning from Korea and Japan. We are getting closer."


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