• China’s ex-national coach returns as interim chief

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    BEIJING: China has turned to a former manager to replace sacked Frenchman Alain Perrin as head coach of the national team, the Chinese Football Association said on Wednesday. Gao Hongbo, 50, who previously managed the side in 2009-11, was re-appointed after Perrin was dismissed following a dismal run of results that left China’s chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup hanging by a thread. Under football-loving President Xi Jinping the country has embarked on an unprecedented spending spree to bring foreign talent east and cultivate homegrown players through mandatory soccer in some schools. But the national team — ranked 82nd in the world — have struggled, drawing 0-0 with Hong Kong in November to leave them on the brink of elimination in the second round of qualifying for Russia 2018. The association said Gao would take over on an interim basis for the next two matches of the campaign, against the Maldives and 2022 hosts Qatar.

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