China football coach Gao quits after Uzbek defeat

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Beijing (AFP)

China's national football coach Gao Hongbo announced his resignation after a 2-0 defeat to Uzbekistan left the perennially underachieving side's hopes of reaching Russia 2018 hanging by a thread, reports said on Wednesday.

The loss in Tashkent left Team Dragon bottom of their third stage qualifying group for the next World Cup, with only one point from four games. Only the top three of the six contenders will progress.

"I will leave the national team because of poor health," Gao told a press conference after the match, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Gao only took charge in February after Frenchman Alain Perrin was sacked following embarrassing performances including a draw with Hong Kong, and under him China squeaked into the third round.

But since then they have lost at home to Syria and their sole point came from a 0-0 draw with Iran.

Gao "failed to mould an effective formation nor playing style for the Chinese team", Xinhua said, adding that while there were six matches left in the stage, "the performances of the Chinese team have not given the fans any hope".

Despite being the world's most populous country and second-largest economy, and money pouring into the domestic game after President Xi Jinping declared ambitions to host and one day win the World Cup, China remains a minnow on the global football stage.

The side has only qualified for one finals tournament, in 2002, and are currently ranked a lowly 78th in the world by FIFA.

Their next match is at home to 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar next month.

Gao, 50, is a former striker for the national team and previously managed the side in 2009-11, before being replaced by Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho on a lucrative contract. Until his reappointment Gao was assistant coach at Dutch club ADO Den Haag.