BEIJING, Nov. 27 -- China faces an uphill task after being handed a tough draw in the Asian qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
"It's like each team in the group has just received an early death sentence," Vladimir Petrovic, the executive coach of the Chinese national team, told the newspaper Football after watching the draw on TV.
China, Australia and Iraq were drawn with Qatar in Group One on Sunday, making it the toughest of the five groups in the Asian confederation. The top two teams in the group advance to the next round of qualifiers.
China will need to qualify within the first five games because it will be very difficult to get a result in its last group game away to Australia, the Serbian national told the paper.
But Petrovic said he was used to being drawn in tough groups.
Petrovic once led his former club Dalian Shide in a "group of death" during the Asian Champions Cup.
Petrovic described the Iraqis "tough" and Qatar as "foxy." He believed Iraq would be China's toughest opponent because it was "very good tactically."
Ratomir Dujkovic, chief coach of the team and also the head of the Chinese Olympic team, told the same paper that Iraq's players played with tremendous spirit and were tough competitors in every game, which put a lot of pressure on their opponents.
Qatar will also be a tricky opponent as it is likely to introduce foreign players into its national team, Petrovic said, adding he wasn't worried about Australia at the moment as it still didn't have a coach and had yet to start its preparations.
Australia and China have met seven times in friendlies since 1975 with Australia winning five times, one match drawn and China winning once, in 1988.
Australia is ranked No. 48 in the world, the highest among teams in the group. Iraq is ranked No. 70, China No. 85 and Qatar No. 86.
China will focus on improving its defense before looking to score, Petrovic hinted, adding counterattack would probably be his main weapon against such strong opponents.
Petrovic said he wants to play with some European teams in some friendly matches to boost China's confidence ahead of the World Cup qualifiers. Dujkovic, also from Serbia, said China need not be afraid of any opponent.
"I have full confidence in the Chinese team," Dujkovic said.
Dujkovic, 61, recommended Petrovic as the executive coach of the Chinese national team after being given the chief coach position by the Chinese Football Association in September.
Meanwhile, Asia could join forces to support Australia's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup ahead of a European rival, AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam said yesterday, Reuters said.
Bin Hammam said that after successfully staging the 2002 World Cup, Asia deserved to host the 2018 finals but its only chance of beating its European rivals was with a united bid.
"As a confederation, we have to go in with one bid, we can't have two or three ... we just couldn't afford that."
Bin Hammam said he had no preferences as to which country Asia should support but said Australia, which is the only Asian country to have publicly declared their interest in staging the event, was a worthy candidate.
"I think we do have a chance if we have one candidate and I would be happy with one bid from Australia.
"At this stage, there is nobody else. We've heard (rumors) about China, I'd be happy if China (was to bid) but we've heard nothing official."