China set semi-final target

China's Olympic coach Ratomir Dujkovic has pledged to lead the host nation into the final four of the Beijing Games despite admitting failure in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying.

Dujkovic, who teamed up with fellow Serb Vladimir Petrovic to coach China's failed FIFA World Cup qualifying bid, told the Titan Sports Weekly that he was now focused on preparing the U-23 side for the 8-24 August tournament.

"The failure of the national team in World Cup qualifying will not influence the Olympic team," Dujkovic told the paper.

"Our goal for the Olympic Games of entering the final four has not changed. I believe we can realise this goal because the national team and the Olympic team are not the same teams."

China's FIFA World Cup dream ended when they lost 2-1 to Asian champions Iraq in Tianjin on Saturday. They face Group 1 leaders Australia in the final qualifying match on 22 June but will finish at the bottom of the group whatever the outcome of that game.

At the Beijing Games, China are drawn alongside one of the favourites, Brazil, as well as Belgium and New Zealand. Dujkovic and Petrovic have been widely criticised in the sports press for the national team's record in five FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifying matches that has seen them draw three and lose two, scoring only two goals.

The pair have also been slammed by veteran team members for bringing eight Olympic team players into the full national side, a decision that is seen as having weakened China's chances to qualify for South Africa in 2010.

Ordinarily the World Cup is more important than the Olympic Games, but these Olympic Games are special because China is host
Ratomir Dujkovic on the importance of Beijing 2008.

" ," Dujkovic said. "There are many reasons why China should place importance on its Olympic team.

"For those Olympic team players that played on the national team, they will not be psychologically marred. On the contrary they will be better for their big match experience and the pressure they faced in international competition."

Dujkovic said he was fully aware of the criticism that he was facing after China's dismal performances. "I myself feel that there is not much of a chance that they will keep me on. If you don't play well the head coach is always the one to leave," Dujkovic said.

"If the football association offers me another contract, I would still have to think about it. If I still have an opportunity and they give me two more years of time, I'm sure I can make China's national team a very competitive side."