China coach gets Asian Cup ultimatum

Updated: 2007-05-22 08:55

BEIJING - China's national football coach has been ordered to lead the squad to the final four of next month's Asian Cup and avoid the errors that led to a recent defeat to Thailand, state media said Monday.

Embattled coach Zhu Guanghu, ordered to Beijing for two days of talks with top officials following last week's humiliating 1-0 loss in Bangkok, said he was given an ultimatum.

"I was told, 'get to the last four or else'," Zhu told Monday's Titan Sports weekly.

The 1-0 setback in Bangkok on Wednesday, China's first loss to Thailand in 14 years, led to calls for Zhu's ouster but he said the football association expressed confidence in him.

He said he was told by China's Football Association chief Xie Yalong to do whatever was necessary in terms of reshuffling the side or changing tactics in order to improve the team's chances at July's Asian Cup in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Zhu argued that the team which played against Thailand was basically a second-string side deprived of many of its European-based players and with only two or three members who would make it to the Asian Cup team.

"For the Asian Cup there are going to be changes, whether they be in personnel or tactics," he said, "Certainly there will be no repetition of what happened in Bangkok."

He took the blame for tactical errors in Bangkok and for failing to take into consideration the sapping effect of the Bangkok heat on his players.

"I never though the heat would have such a killing effect on the players," he said.

"If we had tried to control the ball and keep possession and save our energy ... we may have had a better result."

Zhu took over the national team in March 2005 after their failure to qualify for last year's World Cup under predecessor Arie Haan. However, a string of disappointing performances has kept him under the gun since.

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