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By ESPN Staff

China axe seven after Hamburg thrashing

BEIJING, Jan 16 (Reuters) - China coach Vladimir Petrovic has axed seven players from his squad in the wake of a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of German Bundesliga side SV Hamburg over the weekend.

The dramatic cleanout comes three weeks before China plays Iraq in their first qualifier for the 2010 World Cup and includes regular defenders Du Wei and Zhang Yaokun.

Lu Bofei, Li Jianhua, Sun Ji, Wang Wanpeng and Yang Lin were also cut after 'serious consideration by the coaching staff', according to a statement posted on the Web site of the Chinese Football Association.

'If we're not strict, not ruthless at this stage, how will we be able to take on the World Cup and qualify?' CFA official Wei Shaohui said on the Web site.

China had already brought in Dalian Shide keeper Chen Dong and Shandong Luneng striker Han Peng to bolster the squad, Wednesday's Beijing News said.

Local media questioned China's ability to find replacements and gel as a team ahead of the Iraq qualifier, with several international starting players, including Charlton midfielder Zheng Zhi, unable to join training until days before the fixture.

'It's unknown whether this is to dupe the opposition or just to fool ourselves,' a commentary in the Beijing News said.

China play Asian Cup champions Iraq on Feb. 6. Their qualifying group also includes Australia and Qatar.