China coach Zhu Guanghu has not ruled out China qualifying for the next phase of the AFC Asian Cup despite his side relinquishing a two goal lead before drawing 2-2 with Iran on Sunday.
China had roared into an early lead thanks to goals from Shao Jiayi and Mao Jianqing but were pegged back by a Ferydoon Zandi thunderbolt and Javad Nekounam’s header on 73 minutes.
The result leaves the China now needing at least a draw against Uzbekistan in their final Group C match to guarantee a place in the quarter-finals.
"In the first half we played very well. Infact it was the best we have played for quite a few years. We pressured Iran and got a lot of opportunities," said Zhu.
"It is a pity though that we were two ahead and then gave away two goals. I think the reason for this was that, after the break, Iran were only one goal behind and they pressured us with more attacks.
"However, I think that if my team can manage to produce a better rhythm and make better use of their possession we can still reach the next stage."
Having seen his players withdraw into their shells under intense second half Iranian pressure, a tactic that led to them defending deeper and deeper as the game went on, Zhu was adamant that he did not regret limiting his attacking options by taking off strikers Han Peng and the goal scoring Mao.
"I do not regret substituting my attacking players because they were tired. No player or coach will say that we will play only defensively and not attack. It is a 90 minutes game of football and anything is possible.
"The reason why we were forced back was because the Iran team gave us more pressure after the break. We have got a squad of players, it is about teamwork and we will always use substitutes whenever necessary."
Despite the nature of Iran’s excellent recovery and the possible psychological damage it could inflict on his charges, Zhu was adamant that, given the talent he has at his fingertips, there will be no lasting damage as China attempt to win their first ever Asian Cup title.
"I do not think that it will be a problem for us. Our players are without doubt the best China has to offer," he added.
"They are also very well conditioned and I can say that they will definitely not have any psychological problems."