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Soccer: China out of race for Olympic berth
Updated: 2004-04-17 00:14

Chinese under-23 soccer team's hopes of qualifying for the Athens Olympic Games were smashed on Friday after they lost 2-1 to Iran in an Asian zone qualifying match in Tehran.

The defeat left China third in Group A with four points, eight behind group leader South Korea, which had a perfect 12 points from four matches + two wins against Malaysia and one each against China and Iran.

Cao Yang, Zhang Yaokun and Wang Sheng look disappointed. [Xinhua]
With two matches left to play, China is already impossible to catch up with South Korea.

Iran is second with six points, while Malaysia is at bottom with one.

Should Iran win its remaining two matches and China defeat South Korea on May 1, the west Asian team still has a chance to qualify for Athens.

Iran, which went down 3-1 to China away on March 27, dominated Friday's match throughout, with playmaker Eman Mobali a constant threat to the Chinese goal.

But it was the visiting team who opened the scoring on the half hour mark. Midfielder Cao Yang headed home a loose ball from a corner by teammate Hu Zhaojun.

The Iranians equalized the score in the 41st minute. Morteza Ebrahimi netted in a goalmouth struggle after Mobali's long shot from outside the box hit the crossbar and Chinese goalie An Qi failed to hold the ball.

Inspired by the equalizer, Iran piled on pressure in the second half and went close to scoring several times.

The Mohammad Mayelikohan's side clinched the winner in the 65th minute when S. M. Alavi rose unmarked in the penalty box to head home a free kick from Mobali.

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China tied 1-1 by Malaysia in Olympic soccer qualifier