BRISBANE, Australia - China coach Alain Perrin said he now knows the task facing his side as they face up to 2018 World Cup qualifying after their run to the Asian Cup quarter-finals.
Team China were the tournament's surprise package in their unbeaten romp through the group stage but they were dealt a reality check in Thursday's 2-0 loss to hosts Australia.
"Today we lost to a team that we have seen play at the World Cup finals," the Frenchman said. "We now know we have a lot of things to do, we have a lot of work to do," he added.
China had gone into the Brisbane match full of confidence after topping Group B with wins over Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and North Korea.
But Australia hero Tim Cahill popped up with two second-half goals to put China on a plane home, after they had reached the knock-out stages for the first time in 11 years.
China faded in the second half but despite their loss, they will take heart from a campaign which showed football's ultimate "sleeping giant" may be stirring.
Next up for China is qualifying for Russia 2018, where they will attempt to reach a World Cup finals for only the second time in their history.
"The experience gained at the AFC Asian Cup will help with our FIFA World Cup qualification as this tournament has given us great confidence and we have learned many things," said goalkeeper Wang Dalei.
"Personally I have learned a lot given that this is my first time playing in such big matches. I have improved mentally and in my ability to remember tactics," he added.
China's performance was warmly welcomed at home, where record numbers of viewers for the tournament followed on television.
In a poll on Sina.com's sports page about 10,800, or 77 per cent, said they were satisfied with Perrin's coaching of the team during the Asian Cup.
Comments on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, largely echoed the sentiments in the poll.
"Although we lost, it is already behind us, I"m looking forward to more great things down the road," one user posted.
"Our boys did a great job, never imagined they could get so far in the Asian Cup, keep on fighting!" chimed another.
The poll augurs well for former Lyon coach Perrin, who has been a boon for China after the chequered reign of Jose Antonio Camacho.