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By ESPN Staff

Chinese football on the slide after U21s crash

Chinese football suffered yet another humiliation this week when the national under-21 team failed to get out of the group stage at the East Asian Games.

A 1-0 victory over hosts Hong Kong on Tuesday was not enough to prevent the defending champions bowing out of the six-team football tournament on goal difference before the knockout stage.

The failure to progress can only increase the existing perception among many Chinese that their national football team is a joke, and further fuel calls for reform of the domestic game from top government officials.

"We are concerned about the mental health of our audience," a popular commentator from state-run CCTV joked to Chengdu Business Daily when asked why Tuesday's game had not been broadcast in China.

China fell early in Asian qualifying for next year's World Cup in South Africa and the under-23 team failed to win a game in the football tournament at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Apart from football, China's team is unsurprisingly enjoying great success in Hong Kong and led the medals table after day four of the quadrennial games with 31 golds, six better than Japan.

The 22-sport East Asian Games, which also involves South Korea, North Korea, Macau, Taiwan, Mongolia and Guam, continues until Sunday.


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