China’s bid to reach the World Cup finals In Russia in 2018 suffered a huge blow on Thursday night when they were beaten 1-0 by Syria in a group qualifying match in Xian.

Syria, who are playing their qualifying games outside the country due to the ongoing conflict in their homeland, secured the three points thanks to a breakaway goal against the run of play in the 54th minute.

China, ranked 78th in the world, now have just one point from their first three games in Asia Group A. The country had high hopes of reaching the finals for the second time since their debut in the 2002 tournament in South Korea. Chinese football officials, with the support of President Xi Jinping, have even expressed hopes of hosting the World Cup.

However, Syria now climb above China to fourth place in the group, which is jointly headed by Iran and South Korea on seven points with Uzbekistan in third on six points. Qatar are bottom of the six-team group.

The group winners and group runners-up will qualify for the World Cup in Russia, while the third-placed team will go into a playoff.