China coach Alain Perrin is confident his team can get through their initial round of World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018 but was disappointed to be lumped in the same group with Qatar.
China, ranked 82nd in the world, have also drawn Maldives, Bhutan and Hong Kong but Perrin said he was most concerned about 99th ranked Qatar, where he coached the youth team and local clubs before his current job.
“I am full of confidence for the success of China but ... I don’t want to play against Qatar,” the Frenchman told Chinese media.
[ – Expectation will be on UAE to advance from qualifying Group A ]
“Because I worked in Qatar and know them very well. I think Qatar are the strongest team in group two, so I was hoping to avoid this team.”
Qatar have the edge against China in a relatively even head-to-head and won the last contest 2-0 at the 2011 Asian Cup.
But the Qataris had a poor Asian Cup earlier this year, crashing out of the preliminary round, as opposed to China who enjoyed a trip to the quarter-finals.
China have qualified for the World Cup only once in 2002 and exited from the tournament with three straight defeats and without scoring a single goal.
The team’s failure to reach the global showpiece since has long been a bugbear for football-mad Chinese fans.
Perrin faces a Herculean task steering China to Russia from the Asian confederation, where Asian Cup champions Australia, Japan and South Korea have featured regularly in recent tournaments.
“We have to do our best and play all eight games to win,” he said of the initial phase of qualifying. “With World Cups, there are no easy games.”
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