China team receive rapturous reception

BEIJING - China's players were met by hundreds of cheering fans on Tuesday after their surprise triumph at the East Asian championships.

Newly appointed Chinese Football Association (CFA) chief Wei Di was amongst the supporters who gathered at Beijing Airport to see the players return from Tokyo.

China coach Gao Hongbo and his players posed for pictures with snap-happy fans after his team's success lifted the recent gloom surrounding the game in their country.

"(Winning the East Asian championship) has given us more confidence for the future," captain and tournament Most Valuable Player Du Wei told China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

"We should not be carried away by this success. There is still a long way ahead. We must stay on the ground and need to try harder and do better."

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

The highlight was a shock 3-0 win over South Korea, their first win over their opponents since the countries began playing full internationals in 1978.

"We were united throughout the tournament. This trophy belongs to all the Chinese people. Forget the past, we are moving forward now," said team manager Wei Shaohui.

"There is no short-cut to success. (Chinese) football can't be too desperate. This is a good start to the Lunar New Year and we believe that we can do even better in the future."

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.

Chinese football has rocked by accusations of match-fixing in recent months with Wei's predecessor Nan Yong among more than 20 officials arrested or detained in a police probe.