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Gao Hongbo returns as interim China national team coach

Gao Hongbo will take the helm for China's next two World Cup qualifiers.

BEIJING -- Gao Hongbo has returned as interim coach of China following the departure of Frenchman Alain Perrin last month.

Gao will take the helm for China's next two World Cup qualifiers while the search for a permanent coach continues, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) has announced. He had previously led the team from 2009 to 2011.

China, third in their qualifying group for Russia in 2018, face the Maldives at home on March 24 and Qatar on March 29.

Both Qatar and Hong Kong, against whom they have only managed two draws, are in front of them.

Former Lyon boss Perrin, hired in February 2015 to replace Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho, left over what the CFA said were concerns about his ability to deliver World Cup qualification and oversee the team's future development.

Under Perrin, China won all three of their group stage games in last year's Asian Cup to reach the knockout round for the first time in 11 years before being eliminated by eventual winners Australia.

Gao was appointed in September as an assistant manager at Dutch club ADO Den Haag, owned by Chinese marketing company United Vansen International Sports.

China have qualified for only one World Cup, in 2002, and last year a government-backed campaign was launched to turn their fortunes around.

Ranked 82nd in the world, just behind Libya, the team have suffered from a weak youth system, corruption and mismanagement by government bureaucrats in the CFA.

A series of foreign coaches including England's Bobby Houghton, Dutchman Arie Haan and Serbia's Bora Milutinovic, who took the team to the 2002 World Cup, have attempted to spark and upturn in fortunes.

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