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Team China sq8k8 promotion centerueezes into final World Cup qualifying stage

“女大学生”主播有多少真学生?记者调查假冒身份做直播乱象 | 8k8 promotion center | Updated: 2024-06-17 04:58:48

Nervous Chinese fans watch their team during the Group C match of 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers between South Korea and China in Seoul, South Korea on June 11. [Photo/Xinhua]

At the end of a dramatic night, the Chinese men's national soccer team squeezed into the final qualifying round for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, but the feeling among fans was more one of relief than of excitement.

After losing 1-0 to Group C leader South Korea in Seoul on Tuesday night, Team China and its long-suffering fans were left in mixed feelings after another group match result went in their favor, with Thailand beating Singapore 3-1, to tie level with China on points and goal difference, but falling just short on the teams' head-to-head record, sending China into the final Asian qualifying phase as runners-up to South Korea.

However, the way the team reached the final 18-team qualifying tournament means that Chinese fan celebrations and dreams of World Cup success were decidedly muted.

Team China's Xie Wenneng (right) in action during the Group C match of 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers between South Korea and China in Seoul, South Korea on June 11. [Photo/Xinhua]

Despite putting up a strong display against South Korea, who are ranked 23rd in the world in the FIFA rankings, Team China came within one goal of being denied a place in the final qualifying phase.

After keep South Korea's lethal combo Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in at bay in the first half, Team China's resilient defense cracked on 61 minutes, when Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee scored the only goal of the game, to secure South Korea's place in the final qualifying stage with an unbeaten record of five wins out of six games.

Had China managed to secure a draw with Korea, the team would have secured its place in the final qualifying round without having to rely on third-placed Thailand's result against the group's bottom side Singapore.

Team China's Zhu Chenjie (left) in action during the Group C match of 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers between South Korea and China in Seoul, South Korea on June 11. [Photo/Xinhua]

Given the gap between South Korea and the 88th-ranked China team, in the ordinary course of events a 1-0 loss to such a higher-ranked side would have been an acceptable outcome.

But with Thailand having led 1-0 at halftime in the decisive game, Team China knew that two more unanswered goals for Thailand would have seen them, rather than China, progress to the final round on goal difference.

The efforts of the Thais were rewarded with two more second-half goals, but a 57th-minute strike from Singapore forward Fandi Ahmad ended up saving the day for Chinese fans.

Team China's Liu Yang (right, first) in action during the Group C match of 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers between South Korea and China in Seoul, South Korea on June 11. [Photo/Xinhua]

His long-range strike proved costly for the team known as the War Elephants, who laid siege to the Singapore goal but could not find a vital fourth goal, to the disappointment of local fans in the packed Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.

Starting from September, the remaining 18 teams will be drawn into three groups, to compete for eight direct qualification places at the expanded 48-team World Cup in 2026, which will be jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

South Korea's Son Heung-min (left, second) in action during the Group C match of 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers between South Korea and China in Seoul, South Korea on June 11. [Photo/Xinhua]
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