China's national football team suffered a 1-0 defeat to Iran on Tuesday, but fans remained calm over the performance of Marcello Lippi's team.
The defeat means China's World Cup hopes have diminished, as they now sit second from the bottom in the six-team group, with only five points after seven rounds of play.
"The overall performance is OK, we should be aware there is still a gap between China and Asia's top-tier teams," wrote Sina Weibo user "Alex Wang." "Our team was a little bit unlucky at the start of the second half."
China held Iran, at 33rd Asia's top team in the FIFA world rankings, to a scoreless draw in the first half, but things changed drastically less than one minute after the game resumed.
Left back Jiang Zhipeng of Guangzhou R&F came under fire for offering Iran a close-range shooting chance, which resulted in Mehdi Taremi's goal.
"Though the defeat means we are getting far away from the 2018 World Cup, the games under Lippi have gave us solid hopes for a better national team in the future," another Weibo user said.
Under World Cup-winning coach Lippi, China received a huge morale boost from last Thursday's stunning win over South Korea, who China has only managed to beat one other time over the past three decades.
About 2,000 Chinese fans traveled to the Azadi Stadium, where an estimated 100,000 Iranian supporters waited. China has yet to win a game against Iran at the stadium in Tehran.
Iranian authorities decided to fill up the 78,116-seat Azadi Stadium by allowing Iranian fans to enter the stadium for free. However, Iran's female fans were not available to enter due to religious reasons. Tuesday is still part of Iran's New Year holiday, which started March 20.
The Chinese Embassy in Iran on Sunday issued a notice to Chinese fans who planned to attend the game, asking them to respect local customs. "Men should not wear shorts or singlets, while women should wear scarves," the notice read. "Do not make uncivilized gestures, including raising your middle finger or giving a thumbs-up."
China held Iran to a no-score draw in the two sides' previous meeting in September 2016 in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, when Gao Hongbo was at the team's helm.
China, who only made it to the World Cup in 2002, now needs to overcome a mounting deficit in the remaining three qualifying games this year if they want to qualify for world football showpiece event in Russia.
Silver-haired Lippi has admitted that China now needs a "miracle" to qualify for the World Cup. Lippi, who masterminded Italy's victory at the 2006 World Cup, was hired on a reported 20 million euro ($21.6 million) deal in October.