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2022 World Cup: China coach Li Tie lets rip after side’s draw with Australia keeps slim qualifying hopes alive

November 17, 2021 GMT

The pressure of trying to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar finally seems to have got to Chinese coach Li Tie.

With his side forced to play all their games outside China because of the coronavirus pandemic, the fact they are still in with a chance is something of an achievement.

On Tuesday, a late Wu Lei penalty cancelled out Mitchell Duke’s first-half header as they battled to a 1-1 draw with Australia in Sharjah, a team they lost 3-0 to in their first group B match in September.

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The result left China fifth in the six-team group, on five points from six games, having won once and drawn twice.

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Under pressure to explain his team’s performance so far, Li paid tribute to his players before attacking those who questioned their commitment and his selections.

One mainland media journalist suggested the China Football Association should send the manager to see a psychiatrist, according to online portal Sina Sports.

“I would still say the same thing if being asked again. It is not easy for the players to achieve what they have done so far,” Li said. “You can ask other foreign coaches or players if they have to go through the same thing as we do, they would have been mad. But fortunately we don’t. We are still able to show our desire on the pitch and the never give up attitude and strong characters.

“I feel proud of my charges. There is no doubt our standard is not very high and this is a fact. We are working hard to improve, to be a better team after reaching the final round of 12.

“I can only use my experience, my experience over so many years to tell the players of what they should do when facing these difficulties. I have also experienced a lot of difficult moments.”

With Covid-19 pandemic control measures back home, China have played their all their “home matches” in the UAE since the final round of qualifiers began in September.

They have also had to prepare for the tournament overseas, meaning they have been away from home for a long time.

The star striker’s fourth goal of the tournament came 20 minutes from time from the penalty spot, after James Jeggo was adjudged to have handled the ball.

“I don’t think we did enough tonight,” Mathew Ryan, the Australia goalkeeper and captain, said. “We didn’t create enough clear-cut chances. Obviously there’s a controversial talking point but there are other moments throughout the game where we need to be better if we want to take away a result.”

The draw did little to help the Socceroos’ cause either, leaving them in third on 11 points, a point behind Japan and well adrift of Saudi Arabia.

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Only the top two finishers across the two groups get direct entry to the finals in Qatar, with the third-place team in each group heading to a play-off.

In group A, Iran and South Korea should have little problem of making it to next year’s finals with a significant lead over the remaining teams. The Middle East nation have collected 16 points, two ahead of the Koreans. UAE are in third place with six points, followed by Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

China face Japan away in late January before travelling to Vietnam on the Lunar New Year Day for the following match.

They will complete the group in March, with a home game against Saudi Arabia, which will be followed by a trip to Oman.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.