Thu, Jun 15, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Tears as China’s Cup dream fades


China’s Wu Lei, left, vies for the ball with Syria’s Amro Jenyat in their FIFA World Cup Group A qualifier at Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca, Malaysia, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Marcello Lippi’s China vowed to fight on after their 2018 FIFA World Cup hopes were all but destroyed when Syria’s late equalizer left them bottom of their qualifying group and with their captain in tears.

The Italian coach angrily blamed the referee after Ahmad al-Salih’s stoppage-time free-kick secured a 2-2 draw, dealing a hammer blow to China’s already remote chances.

Captain Feng Xiaoting wept after the final whistle as Lippi, who led Italy to the 2006 FIFA World Cup title, struggled to contain his fury.

“It was a very disappointing result for us, we deserved three points,” Lippi said, according to the China Daily. “Our performance in the first half was not that good, but we did a very good job in the second half and turned the game around. Unfortunately the referee changed the game. I don’t understand why he made that call. It was a fatal decision for us.”

Lippi appeared to be referring to the decision by referee Ammar Aljneibi of the United Arab Emirates to award Syria the pivotal free-kick in stoppage-time in Malaysia.

Not all decisions went against China, who were handed a lifeline with what looked like a soft penalty to make it 1-1 on 68 minutes.

Wu Xi’s volley six minutes later put China in sight of victory, but they were stunned when al-Salih swept home his free-kick in the third minute of stoppage-time.

China, who are investing heavily at international, domestic and grassroots soccer, are now bottom of Asian qualifying Group A with just two games remaining.

Only the top two teams earn an automatic spot at next year’s World Cup finals in Russia, with the third-placed side going into the playoffs.

“We did so well in the second half and we almost got the win, but this is football. It is so hard for me to accept the result, but we will fight to the end,” distraught skipper Feng said.

China now need big wins over Uzbekistan in August and away to Qatar in September, while hoping that other results go their way.

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