BEIJING (AP) – Former Spain coach Jose Antonio Camacho arrived in Beijing on Saturday to take over the China national team in the qualification run-up to the Brazil World Cup.
Camacho, who also played more than 500 times for Real Madrid, was swarmed by Chinese media when he arrived at Beijing's main airport.
''We are happy to be here. My team and I are proud to join the Chinese national squad. Our goal for the moment is to try to qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil. But we have a long-term plan for the future,'' Camacho told the Xinhua News Agency.
Camacho, 56, takes over from from national team player Gao Hongbo and will be tasked with rapidly improving China's poor standing in the world's top sport. It has only qualified for one World Cup, in 2002, and is currently ranked 73rd in the world, squeezed between Malawi and Zambia.
The Chinese Football Association had signalled that Gao would be replaced even before he coached the team in the Asian second-round World Cup qualifier against Laos last month.
China won that, and progressed to the group-stage third round, when it will face Singapore, Jordan and Iraq, beginning next month.
The CFA said Camacho will sign a contract and hold a news conference on Sunday, and become the latest appointment under the country's habit of alternating between foreign and Chinese head coaches.
German Klaus Schlappner was the first foreigner to coach China in 1992, with England's Bobby Houghton, Serbian Bora Milutinovic, Dutchman Arie Haan and Serbian Vladimir Petrovic holding the hot seat since.
Camacho played more than 80 times for Spain, including in two World Cups. He managed Spain's national team for four years, reaching the quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup.
He has coached several clubs in Spain: Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol, Sevilla and Osasuna, as well as two spells with Portugese giants Benfica. However his much-heralded appointment as Real Madrid coach in 2004 ended quickly as he was fired after a handful of games.
Xinhua said Camacho arrived with an assistant coach, a physical coach and a technical analyst.