China’s campaign in the AFC U23 Championship ended with a chastening third defeat in a row as Iran set up a fascinating quarter-final clash with Japan by beating Fu Bo’s men 3-2.
Qatar sealed their status as Group A winners with a 4-2 victory over Syria and the tournament hosts will take on Thailand, North Korea or Saudi Arabia in the next round of the competition as the battle for a place at the Olympic Games intensifies.
The Chinese, though, were never in serious contention to join the hosts in the last eight, with the defeat against the Iranians the final nail in a disastrous campaign that yielded zero points and just four goals across three matches.
“We created this team in 2013 with the plan to fight for this championship, but the result isn’t satisfying,” said coach Fu Bo. “However, the players still need to go a long way and fight for their dreams in the future.
“In all these three matches we lost so many goals and that shows that we have a poor defence. The speed at this tournament was so high and we need to focus on this and when the players go back to their own teams in China they are going to have to focus more on defence and adjusting to the speed of the game.”
China went into the meeting with Iran with the slimmest of hopes of progressing, but goals from Arsalan Motahhari, Ehsan Pahlavan and a fabulous free kick by Mahdi Torabi killed off their chances despite consolation Chang Feiya and Liao Lisheng strikes.
Elimination means the team will now be disbanded, with Fu and his assistants uncertain about their future after overseeing another disappointing performance by a representative side on the international stage.
“It’s a great experience for all of the players to play in this tournament and it’s also a great experience for our coaches, too, and we will discuss what we will do when we get back,” Fu said on plans for the future.
“We need some rest and then we’ll see if we coach again. It depends.”
The Qataris, meanwhile, were in ominous form once more, comfortably seeing off the Syrians to finish the group stages with their perfect record intact. They now wait to see who finishes as runners-up in Group B, which will be decided on Tuesday.
Group D, meanwhile, remains in the balance after the United Arab Emirates and Jordan played out a 0-0 stalemate after Vietnam were beaten 2-0 by Australi - a result that sees Toshiya Miura’s team eliminated.
UAE will progress with a draw against the Vietnamese in their final game while Australia need to defeat Jordan to guarantee they advance to the quarter-finals.
Photo: Asian Football Confederationcomments