February 03, 2016

BEIJING (AP) Gao Hongbo has returned as interim coach of the Chinese men's national football team following the departure of Frenchman Alain Perrin last month.

The Chinese Football Association said on its website Wednesday that Gao would take the helm for the next two World Cup qualifiers while the search for a permanent coach continues.

Gao led the team from 2009 to 2011.

China, third in its qualifying group for Russia in 2018, faces the Maldives at home on March 24 and Qatar on March 29.

Perrin left over what the CFA said were concerns over China's needs to qualify for the World Cup and its future development.

China has qualified for only one World Cup final, in 2002, and last year launched a campaign to turn its fortunes around.

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