Another abysmal defeat conceded by the Chinese national soccer team has resulted in the swift departure of head coach Gao Hongbo. On Tuesday evening, in the midsts of recovering from their previous 1-0 loss to Syria in Xi’an, China’s worst fears were realized in Tashkent as Uzbekistan took home a 2-0 win, destroying any hope the team may have had for Russia 2018. Xi Jinping’s “three stage World Cup plan” — qualify for it, host it, win it — couldn’t have started with a bigger anti-climax.
The nightmare began last Thursday when, “A desperately disorganized performance highlighted by baffling team selections and a painfully inappropriate formation allowed Syria to capitalize with a richly deserved 1-0 win,” according to the Global Times. It became apparent that the team was woefully unprepared for the occasion.
After Thursday’s match, fans took to the streets to demand that the president of the Chinese Football Association was sacked:
Large crowd of fans demanding head of CFA, Cai Zhenhua to resign after China's 1-0 WCQ home defeat by Syria today. pic.twitter.com/zX0y0J2290
— Zhe Ji (@Maoradona) October 6, 2016
Then, on Tuesday evening, the nightmare continued. Uzbekistan, a team China had previously beaten 2-1 in last year’s Asian cup finals, outshot China 15-2 in the second half of the game, resulting in a fortunate loss of only 2-0. Gao, content to settle for a 0-0 draw, had obviously had enough and immediately resigned from his position as head coach due to “health reasons”.
Even with six fixtures remaining, the hopes for the Chinese team are slim. “Should Chinese football start from scratch?” asked state media. Billions have been spent in an attempt to attract foreign stars to China and billions have been spent buying up foreign teams, but has the “buying spree” in the Chinese super league masked deep seated failings in the national game?
Xi Jinping has a strategy, however, and it may be modelled on Germany’s previous success. After a dismal performance at Euro 2000, where Germany finished bottom of their group, the country decided to nurture technically proficient, homegrown talent. This led to huge investment in academies right across the top two divisions. In the short run, China might be attempting to attract foreign talent to score some goals, but they are also investing in the future. “Thousands of football academies are also being built across the country in a bid to nurture a new generation of world-beating players,” according to the Guardian
For the moment, there will be some very disappointed fans, but Gao’s departure will have satisfied their anger for the time being.
Whoever the next guy is, let’s just hope he has some innovative ideas and a lot of balls.
By Seamus Gibson
[Images via Shanghai Daily]