China coach Zhu Guanghu faces an uncertain future after his team went from championship contenders to Asian Cup also-rans within two matches.
China started the tournament with a 5-1 victory over co-hosts Malaysia, and when they led Iran 2-0 during their Group C encounter on Saturday, Zhu felt his team were playing better football than any other Chinese side over the past two decades.
However, it started to turn sour for Zhu when Iran battled back to snatch a 2-2 draw.
Worse was to follow on Wednesday.
China looked the better side against Uzbekistan until the Central Asians scored three goals in the final 18 minutes to eliminate the 2004 Asian Cup runners-up.
China finished third in the group with four points, the first time they failed to progress beyond the group stage in 27 years.
Zhu, though, refused to entertain talk of quitting.
"I will not leave football," he told journalists after the match. "We will go back and learn from this game. Myself, the coaching team and the players will move forward."
Zhu was criticised for negative tactics against Iran by trying to sit on a lead rather than kill off opponents.
He said injuries were to blame, not poor tactics. China were missing first-choice goalkeeper Li Leilei and defender Li Weifeng through injury against Uzbekistan.
"We had to take off some attacking players against Iran because they were tired," said Zhu.
"We were also without several key players and that really affected us against Uzbekistan.
"The players did their best and I hope we can continue to develop this team."
There was good news for China on Thursday with striker Han Peng rejoining the team after spending a night in hospital, according to Chinese officials.
Han was rushed to hospital on Wednesday after a collision with Uzbek goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
It was feared he had suffered a serious neck injury but a team official told Reuters on Thursday he was back with the team.