The 56-year-old Camacho takes over from national team player Gao Hongbo and will be tasked with rapidly improving China’s poor standing in the world’s most popular sport. China has only qualified for the World Cup once, in 2002, and is currently ranked 73rd in the world, between Malawi and Zambia.
The Chinese Football Association announced at a news conference that the Spaniard had signed a three-year contract after taking a six-month break from coaching.
Camacho told reporters he faces high expectations from football fans in China, but he enjoys the pressure.
“I have a two-step plan for my team,” he said. “First, qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It won’t be an easy task, but my team and I are working towards this goal.
“Second, I think the improvement of Chinese football depends on its popularity in the country. I hope to see more kids play at school or in the street. I hope to see more people playing this sport in China, then Chinese football will have hope.”
The CFA had signaled 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 match and progressed to the group-stage third round, where it will face Singapore, Jordan and Iraq beginning next month.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency said that Camacho is expected to meet the national team for the first time in the southern Chinese city of Kunming on Aug. 22, 11 days before China’s first qualifying match against Singapore.
Camacho is the latest appointment in the country’s revolving door of 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 also managed Spain’s national team for four years, reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.
He has coached several clubs in Spain—Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol, Sevilla and Osasuna—as well as Portuguese giant Benfica twice. However, his much-heralded appointment as Real Madrid coach in 2004 ended quickly as he was fired after a handful of games.
Camacho was also fired by Osasuna in February after the Spanish club fell into the relegation zone.