China coach Gao Hongbo resigned on Tuesday after a 2-0 defeat in Uzbekistan almost certainly ended hopes of automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Marat Bikmaev and Otabek Shukurov scored a goal each in Tashkent to leave China with just a single point from the first four games in Asia’s third round of qualification.
The team, who lost 1-0 at home to Syria last Thursday, has only ever appeared at one World Cup, in 2002.
“I would like to thank the players and the fans for supporting me,” Gao said. “I think it is time to step down.”
In contrast, Uzbekistan has nine points.
The top two of the six teams in groups A and B will qualify automatically for the World Cup, with the two third-place teams going to a fourth-round match to decide which of them makes the intercontinental play-offs.
In other results on Tuesday, a second-half penalty from Mile Jedinak earned Australia a 1-1 draw against Japan in group B.
Genki Haraguchi had put Japan ahead in the sixth minute after a mistake from the Australian backline, but the Hertha Berlin forward gave away a penalty early in the second half with a push on Tomi Juric.
Jedinak, who plays for Aston Villa, then scored from the spot.
“We expected a reaction from ourselves and that’s what we got,” Jedinak said. “Second half we were a bit more patient, our movement was better and we put them on the back foot.”
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou criticised his team for “wasting” the first half.
“Overall, you kind of think we wasted that 45 minutes of the game,” a deflated Postecoglou said. “We were very poor in the first half. A very poor start.
“We didn’t show enough intent in the 45 minutes to score. From our perspective, we were just very, very static, we were just a little bit too cute in some of our moves.
“We should have just taken the game to them.”
The draw is Australia’s second in a row, following a 2-2 result against Saudi Arabia on Thursday, and leaves the Socceroos unbeaten with eight points from four games. Japan has seven points.
“I think it was two points lost,” Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic said. “But we played well and had chances to win.”
In Tehran, Mohannad Abdulraheem scored all four goals as Iraq beat Thailand 4-0 for their first points in group B.
Abdulraheem scored two goals in each half against a team who finished with 10 men after Koravit Namwiset was sent off with 20 minutes remaining.
Thailand has lost all four of their group games.
Associated Press, Reuters