New China coach eyes 2014

China PR's newly-appointed national coach has set his sights on the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ finals, but admitted that the road ahead for the troubled side will be difficult.

"The ultimate goal for my team is the 2014 World Cup tournament, we will try to reach the finals," Gao Hongbo, China's seventh national team head coach since 2000, told journalists. "Chinese football is currently at a low point, but we have the obligation and responsibility to.... create a national team that is special, capable and has hope."

Gao, 43, was named head coach earlier this month. The former national team striker is expected to face his first challenge during the qualifying rounds for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. He is the youngest person ever to lead the national side and replaces Serbian coach Vladimir Petrovic, who failed to lead China out of the early qualification rounds for next year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Despite showing itself to be a sports powerhouse at the Beijing Olympics, China's national football team have failed to make a major impact, qualifying only once for the FIFA World Cup finals - in the 2002 tournament in Japan and Korea. China currently lie 97th in FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, behind Iceland but just ahead of Sierra Leone.

Gao and the national side face friendly matches against Germany, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the coming weeks.