China World Cup hopes left on knife edge after draw with Thailand

China was the inferior side for long periods and missed a penalty, before Zhang Yuning rescued a point with 11 minutes left in a deflating 1-1 draw.
Going into their last group game on Tuesday, China are second behind already qualified South Korea with eight points in hand.
Going into their last group game on Tuesday, China are second behind already qualified South Korea with eight points in hand.Representative image

BEIJING: Chinese football fans and pundits were left with a familiar sinking feeling on Friday after a disappointing home draw with Thailand left their country's World Cup hopes on a knife edge.

Victory on Thursday in front of a sell-out 47,000 crowd in Shenyang would have sent China into the final qualifying round for the 2026 World Cup. Instead, they were the inferior side for long periods and missed a penalty, before Zhang Yuning rescued a point with 11 minutes left in a deflating 1-1 draw.

President Xi Jinping once said that he wanted China to win the World Cup, but they have only reached the tournament once when they lost all three games and failed to score a goal in 2002.

"There is no blessed land or miracle in Chinese football," state-run outlet The Paper said following the Thailand stalemate.

Fans vented their frustrations on social media site Weibo, with one writing: "There is no strategy, no coordination! It is a mess!"

Going into their last group game on Tuesday, China are second behind already qualified South Korea with eight points in hand. Thailand are third with five oints.

The top two reach the next qualifying stage.

However, China faces a daunting trip to Son Heung-min's South Korea while Thailand hosts basement side Singapore.

Thailand will go through if China lose against the best team in the group and Thai's win while also making up the goal difference against the worst team.

The country's long-suffering fans were no more optimistic, even if their team is still in the driving seat in second place and can guarantee progression with a draw in Seoul.

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