Can you get used to heartbreaks?

Updated: 2011-10-13 07:50

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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Can you get used to heartbreaks?

China coach Jose Antonio Camacho can only watch as his team gives up its match against Iraq on Tuesday. [Photo by Cui Meng / China Daily]

China's home embarrassment to Iraq just the latest in long string

BEIJING - The more you love something, the more it can hurt you. Just ask Chinese soccer fans.

Every international loss to one of soccer's minnows is followed by pledges to quit watching.

But once the country launched its effort to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, throngs of fans flocked back.

And what did they get for the commitment? A 1-0 loss at home on Tuesday.

According to local media, more than 30 thousand tickets were sold out a week before the team's World Cup qualifier against Iraq at Shenzhen Sports Stadium, while more than 80 percent of the audience was at the stadium an hour early to watch warm-ups.

"The support from home fans is very important to the team, because they are the 12th player on the field," said Bora Milutinovic, who guided China to its first and only World Cup in 2002. "I will never forget the day we qualified for the World Cup in Shenyang (against Oman on Oct 7, 2002). We brought happiness to the fans and never lost a ball in all the home games - that's really marvelous."

But the team has only left a trail of disappointment since.

The 67-year-old, who brought his "happy soccer" philosophy to China, said the Chinese players' problem is strictly mental.

"It's very strange that China always plays out of form at home, even worse than in an away game," said Milutinovic, who is working as a consultant for the Qatar Football Association. "I can hardly imagine such a result in this game.

"I'm always confident in the Chinese team. The performance of the Iraqis was very normal, but China failed to show its real ability at home, which is the reason for its loss," said the Serb, who coached Iraq in 2009.

China started the round-of-20 qualifier with a 2-1 victory against Singapore at home on Sep 2, but was defeated by Jordan 2-1 away five days later.

The home game against Iraq was regarded as a crucial match. A win would probably have secured China a berth in the next round, while the loss put the team in danger.

"Chinese players have so much psychological pressure. How can they play a good game if they couldn't relax themselves in the game?" Milutinovic said. "China is in a very dangerous situation now. Even they win all the three games left, their destiny might be decided by other teams' results. If China can't beat Iraq in the away game, they will finish with an early farewell to the Brazil World Cup."

China Daily