China failed to reach the knock-out stage after suffering a humiliating 3-0
defeat to Uzbekistan at the Asian Cup here on Wednesday.
All three goals came via free kicks as Dynamo Kiev striker Maksim Shatskikh,
midfielder Timur Kapadze and veteran Alexander Geynrikh struck late in the
second half to break the hearts of the 2004 runners-up.
Iran finished top of the group on seven points after their 2-0 win over
co-hosts Malaysia earlier on Wednesday, with Uzbekistan second on six points.
China finished with four points and Malaysia lost all three matches.
China needed only adraw to qualify after a 5-1 victory
over Malaysia and a 2-2 draw with Iran. Uzbekistan, who thrashed Malaysia 5-0
after losing 2-1 to Iran, needed to win to reach the last eight.
The match was marred by a serious neck injury to Chinese forward Han Peng who
was taken to hospital after a collision with Uzbek goalkeeper Hayrulla Karimov
in the final minutes.
Uzbekistan travel to Jakarta to face Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals on
Sunday. Iran stay in Malaysia to take on South Korea.
Uzbek coach Rauf Inileyev told reporters: "We spent a lot of time on free
kicks because we felt that China were weak in that part of their game. In fact,
our whole game-plan worked very well."
Chinese coach Zhu Guanghu, blaming defeat on absence of injured goalkeeper Li
Leilei and defender Li Weifeng, is determined to carry on.
"I will not leave football," he said. "The coaching staff and players will
learn from this defeat and move forward."