Wu Xi (L) of China vies with Pham Tuan Hai of Vietnam during the Group B match between China and Vietnam of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifier in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 1, 2022. (VNA/Handout via Xinhua)
China was crushed by Vietnam 3-1, losing the last hope to qualify for the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
HANOI, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- China's slim hopes of qualifying for the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar was crushed after it lost 3-1 to Vietnam in the final round of Asian Zone qualifiers here on Tuesday, which is also the Chinese New Year Day.
It is also Vietnam's first victory in Group B following a losing streak of seven games in as many matches.
"I want to say sorry to all the Chinese fans and to my players. I made mistake on game plan and the players were too nervous on the pitch," Chinese head coach Li Xiaopeng told a post-match conference.
Cheered by home crowd, Vietnam grabbed an early lead with Ho Tan Tai's header just nine minutes into the game and made it 2-0 seven minutes later as Nguyen Tien Linh netted home from close range after a pass from Do Hung Dung.
Li brought on Wei Shihao and Zhang Yuning to replace naturalized forwards A Lan and Luo Guofu after the interval. Zhang found the net just six minutes later on a through pass from Wu Lei, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
"The two naturalized players had a strong desire to play. The have not played matches for a long time before, which had impact on their physical conditions. Both of them tried their best on the pitch despite not scoring a goal," Li said.
China suffered a further blow in the 76th minute when Phan Van Duc slotted home outside the box to put the result of the game beyond doubt.
Xu Xin scored a consolation goal for China in the final minute of stoppage time.
Despite more shots and higher ball possession percentage, China posed few threats to the Vietnamese goalkeeper as several Chinese players made many unforced errors.
"My game plan went wrong. The two blocking midfielders were too close to the center backs when we were attacking, while those defensive players stayed too far away from each other when we were in defense. That's a big problem," Li said.
The defeat killed China's harsh theoretical chance of qualifying for the World Cup, as the team collected only five points from eight games.
"Chinese football will definitely revive in the future, but it needs hard work, generation by generation," Li added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Japan beat group leader Saudi Arabia 2-0 to consolidate its second position with 18 points, only one point behind the Saudis. Oman will host Australia in the other match of Group B later on Tuesday. ■