China coach Gao Hongbo steps down after defeat to Uzbekistan

China coach Gao Hongbo resigned on Tuesday after a 2-0 defeat in Uzbekistan further damaged their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Marat Bikmaev and Otabek Shukurov scored a goal each in Tashkent to leave China with just a single point from the first four games in Asia's third round of qualification.

"I spoke with the heads of the Chinese Football Association before the match and we agreed if we couldn't reach a positive result against Uzbekistan I would stand down from my post,'' Gao said.

"I would like to thank the players and the fans for supporting me. I think it is time to step down."

China only allowed one goal in the eight games of the previous round of qualifying -- a 1-0 defeat at Qatar -- but the current round has not been as successful.

They began last month with a 3-2 defeat to group favourites South Korea, then followed that with a goalless draw at home against Iran.

After last week's 1-0 loss at home to Syria, Gao conceded that "we are the weakest side of the 12 teams" remaining in Asia.

Tuesday's defeat left China eight points away from the automatic qualification spots, and they trail third-place South Korea by six points with six games remaining.

The top two of the six teams in the groups will qualify automatically for the World Cup, with the two third-place teams going to a fourth-round match to decide which of them makes the intercontinental playoffs.

The national team's struggles left Gao lamenting the influx of foreign players into the Chinese Super League and the reduction of opportunities for domestic players in key positions for their clubs.

"In every leading Chinese Super League team's formation the backbone is mainly made up of foreign players," Gao said after the Syria game. "Chinese players don't have many chances to practice and now we have to design something which means they can execute when they come to the national team."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.