Four Chinese coaches are being given a three-day grilling to see which one of them will be handed the dubious honour of taking charge of the national team.
The four have been sent to a closed training base where each will have give a 15-minute presentation and undergo a three-hour written test on their knowledge of education, management and sport, the Beijing News said.
Caretaker Yin Tiesheng, who took temporary charge last December after China's early exit from 2010 World Cup qualifying is one of the candidates.
"I am not very confident," said Yin, whose last two matches in charge were a 3-2 loss to Syria and a 6-1 win over Vietnam in Asian Cup qualifiers.
"I only hope I can present my knowledge of football and let the commission decide. The fact I am here means I have some chance," he told the paper.
Shen Xiangfu is considered the favourite by local media despite his unsuccessful attempt to get China's under-23 team through the 2004 Olympic qualifiers.
Gao Hongbo, who led Changchun to the national league title in 2007, and former Shanghai coach Wu Jingui round out the contenders.
A commission of senior officials will score the candidates on their presentation and examinations with the result to be announced in mid-March, the paper said.
Previous national team coaches have had to endure savage abuse as the nation of soccer enthusiasts took out their frustrations over the repeated failure of the national team.
Serbian Vladimir Petrovic was the last full time coach but his contract was not renewed after China was knocked out of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter last year criticised China for hiring foreign coaches and then sacking them as soon as results went against them.