Haan bows out as China suffer World Cup exit
Disconsolate China coach Arie Haan stepped down after his team suffered an embarrassing early exit from World Cup qualifying despite thrashing Hong Kong 7-0.
Haan, whose contract was terminated following the abrupt end to China's qualifying efforts, bid an emotional adieu to his players after they came agonisingly close to rescuing a stuttering campaign.
"I'm empty inside," Haan said afterwards. "I feel sad for the players and for everybody who was involved in the game. You can't come closer than this."
The seven-star showing enthralled 35,000 fans at the Tianhe Stadium but was not enough to overhaul the superior goal difference of group leaders Kuwait, who beat Malaysia 6-1.
Kuwait's victory left them with an identical goal difference to China of plus 13. But the Gulf side advanced to the final round of qualifying by virtue of having scored one goal more, 15 to China's 14.
"What can you say about the game," said Haan, a member of the famous 'Total Football' Netherlands teams of the 1970s. "We had enough scoring chances for almost three games but it makes it even more sad because we only scored one less than Kuwait.
"After a game like this there's not so much to say because it's over. Everybody tried their best and seven goals is a lot, but it wasn't enough today."
China had always looked a long shot to overhaul Kuwait, who were facing bottom-placed Malaysia at home, but a rush of goals either side of half-time sent hopes soaring.
After Li Jinyu's early strike, 1860 Munich striker Shao Jinyu chipped in with two in three minutes just before the break. Li bundled over his second just after the restart and Xu Yunhong volleyed home China's fifth minutes later.
China then recovered from Zheng's missed penalty -- given for Luk Koon-pong's handball in the box -- as substitutes Yu Genwei and Li Yi added two more goals in the dying minutes.
The late flurry completed an evening of total dominance for China, who started brightly with veteran striker Hao Haidong and Wei Xin going close early on. Li opened the scoring in the eighth minute, capitalising on a defensive error from Hong Kong captain Lee Wai-Man to burst into the box and lash a fierce left-footed shot into the top right-hand corner.
Li found the side-netting and Hao came close on a number of occasions including one shot which was deflected on to the bar as China camped out in Hong Kong's half.
However China's efforts were not enough and at the final whistle, a disbelieving crowd and team trudged from the stadium after hearing the news from Kuwait.