BEIJING • Marcello Lippi has said that China's hopes of reaching the next World Cup Finals are not dead and buried yet, even though they could not snatch all three points in his first game in charge.
China drew 0-0 with Qatar to remain bottom of Group A of the World Cup 2018 Asian zone qualifiers on two points, but the Italian took heart from a bright performance, as the hosts twice hit the woodwork in Kunming.
Lippi's China now have five games to rise up the six-team table, where the top two sides win automatic spots at the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia. The third-placed side goes into a play-off series.
"We knew before this match that our hope of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia was a very small one and it will be even more difficult after this game," said Lippi, who had won the 2006 World Cup with Italy.
"After today's match, I want to tell my players that they are not inferior to their opponents. We were able to play good football and proved that we were better than Qatar.
"We will do our best as long as we have a theoretical chance of qualifying. We are on the right track and that is what matters. If we keep performing like this, the hope is not dead yet."
When qualifying resumes in March, China will host South Korea and they also have tough away assignments against Iran, Syria and Qatar among their final qualifying matches.
In the North, Central America and Caribbean zone, Jurgen Klinsmann did not attempt to sugar-coat his reaction to the performance of his United States team, after their 4-0 humiliation against Costa Rica on Tuesday.
The normally upbeat German admitted the performance of his side, who mustered only one shot on goal in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, had been unacceptable.
"This is the defeat that hurts the most in my five years here, there's no doubt about it," he said after a result that leaves the US without a point from their first two matches and bottom in the hexagonal qualifying group.
"It is a bitter pill to swallow."
Speculation over Klinsmann's tenure as coach was already rampant before the game, even as US Soccer president Sunil Gulati remained publicly supportive.
After the loss to Costa Rica, Gulati called for a metaphorical time-out, as reports linked former coach Bruce Arena to the job.
"We won't make any decisions right after games," he said.
"We'll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS