Football authorities in China are targeting the semi-finals at next year’s Asian Cup and the 2014 World Cup finals after an upswing in fortunes for the national side.
China, where football has been blighted by a huge corruption scandal, have climbed to 82nd in the world rankings — a significant improvement from their lowly position of 108 in May last year when Gao Hongbo took the helm as coach.
Under Gao China, who failed to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa, have 12 wins, three defeats and 10 draws, including a 1-1 draw against World Cup quarter-finalists Paraguay in Nanjing earlier this month.
“The men’s team aims to enter the 2014 World Cup finals (in Brazil),” Cao Jingwei, the top manager for the men’s and women’s national sides, was quoted as saying by the China Daily on Tuesday.
“The squad will examine itself by playing in the Asian Cup and also hold the target of advancing to the knockout phase, with the hope of moving into the semi-finals.”
Chinese Football Association chief Wei Di called on both men’s and women’s teams to move beyond the crippling allegations of match-fixing and bribery, which have damaged the sport’s credibility, and to make the nation proud.
“Chinese soccer has suffered unprecedented image destruction and credibility deterioration due to its consecutive bribery scandals, and the national teams’ plummeting performance is nearly intolerable in such a sports powerhouse,” Wei said.
“The cruel reality demands that we be fully prepared for the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup.”
Officials have told the women’s squad they expect them to win gold at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November, the report said.
Former football chief Nan Yong, his deputy Yang Yimin and another top aide were arrested earlier this year on bribe-taking and match-fixing charges. Scores of officials and referees have been detained.
Nan served as CFA head for less than a year before he was arrested, reportedly for crimes that began early in his tenure at the association. He was replaced by Wei.
The Asian Cup takes place in January in Qatar.
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