A thigh injury will sideline Chinese defender Sun Xiang during his team's Asian Cup qualifier against Syria, Chinese state media reported on Sunday, in the latest setback for China's beleaguered national side.

The Austria Vienna fullback, 26, first injured himself in September and said he was upset he would not recover before China plays Syria away on 14 January, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"What a disappointment. I had expected I would be fit enough for the Asian Cup qualifier, but as a soccer player you never know what injury is waiting for you," he was quoted as saying.

Sun's absence will further weaken a defence that conceded five goals during the last three warm-up games, Xinhua said. The team is training in Shanghai before the Syria match-up. "Sun is an excellent player and we need his service as our defence is far from solid, but he did not recover from the nagging injury, so we have to rest him," coach Yin Tiesheng said.

Yin is hoping to rebuild a national side that has already crashed out of the early qualifying rounds for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and which also includes players from a Beijing Olympic squad that failed to win a match before the home crowd.