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China finally announce new national soccer coach
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China finally announce new national soccer coach

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) named former international striker Gao Hongbo yesterday as the new coach of the national men's soccer team.

Gao, 43, became the youngest man to take the helm in 30 years and is the seventh coach since 2000, when Serbian Bora Milutinovic took over and later led the team into the historic first World Cup finals in 2002.

Gao was grilled in a closed camp for three days by senior officials in February with three other candidates: temporary caretaker Yin Tiesheng, under-23 team boss Shen Xiangfu and former Shanghai coach Wu Jingui.

The contract of former full-time coach Serbian Vladimir Petrovic was not renewed after China was eliminated from the qualifiers for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Since the 2002 breakthrough, the national team has struggled.

Head coaches being fired in the wake of bad performances at big tournaments and subsequent marathon deliberations by CFA for a replacement has become a vicious circle.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticized China last year for a policy of hiring and firing foreign coaches.

Gao, a former Chinese national striker, made himself known in the coaching field by guiding Changchun Yatai to the Chinese Super League title in 2007 but was forced to step down last July because of a rift with some players.

His appointment was revealed by media late last month but denied by CFA, which was reportedly split between him and veteran coach Shen.

Gao's first assignment will be to lead the squad through the 2011 Asian Cup qualifiers.

But before that he will debut as national coach in a friendly against 2006 World Cup bronze medalist Germany in Shanghai on May 29.

He will also have two warm-up matches against Iran and Saudi Arabia next month.

Another veteran coach, Liu Chunming, former boss of the nation's U-17 squad, has been appointed the head coach for the Olympic team.

Liu will lead the team to the 2012 London Games.

And he faces a tall order because in the past the team has only managed to qualify for the Olympics once - in 1988.

The side competed at last year's Beijing Games as host, but were embarrassingly eliminated in the group stage.

(China Daily May 5, 2009)

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