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China's World Cup hope slim after defeat to Syria

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-10-07 07:41 Comments

China's World Cup hope slim after defeat to Syria

Players from China and Syria fight for the ball during a FIFA World Cup Asian Zone qualifier in Xi'an, China on Oct 6, 2016. China lost to Syria 1-0 in the game. [Photo/IC] 

XI'AN - China's hope for the 2018 World Cup looks slim as they were stunned on Thursday by the war-torn Syria in the third game of the final round of the FIFA World Cup Asian Zone qualifiers and suffered their first defeat in Xi'an, a so-called "blessed place" for Chinese soccer.

The hosts dominated the ball possession but could not find the net while Mahmoud Mawas' second-half goal put China at the edge of elimination.

"Our defense line made a mistake and let the rivals grab a chance in counterattack," said China coach Gao Hongbo.

China captain Feng Xiaoting said: "We should learn from the loss and focus on the next game."

Both sides were already feeling the pressure after their winless starts to the campaign as China lost 2-3 away to South Korea and held Iran to a goalless draw on home turf while Syria also had one point from the previous two games.

China are trying to reach their second World Cup finals in history in the tough Group A which includes 2022 hosts Qatar, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Iran and Syria.

This is also China's first appearance in the final round of the Asian qualifiers for a World Cup since they qualified for South Korea/Japan 2002, their first and only appearance in the World Cup finals.

Goalkeeper Gu Chao, who substituted the injured Zeng Cheng in the Iran game, was given a first start while striker Wu Lei was dropped and Gao Lin from Guangzhou Evergrande moved into a new 4-4-2 system.

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