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2018 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifying

I won’t have failed if China don’t qualify for World Cup, says coach Marcello Lippi

Group A campaign for Russia 2018 continues against Syria in Malaysia on Tuesday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 10:35pm

Marcello Lippi insists that he would not have failed with China, even if the Italian World Cup-winning coach is unable to rescue their qualification campaign for Russia 2018, which continues on Tuesday against Syria in Malaysia.

Chasing only a second-ever Word Cup finals appearance and first since 2002, China find themselves second from bottom in the five-team group A with only one win to show for their efforts in seven games.

Former Guangzhou Evergrande coach Lippi was appointed in October last year and has started to turn around China’s fortunes, highlighted by March’s home win over South Korea.

But Lippi was handed an almost impossible task of guiding China to Russia after they lost three of their first four games, including a 1-0 home defeat by Syria.

“Since I took over the job in last October, our plan has been to help the team improve. They only had one point in the first four games. They were very far from the World Cup, but we didn’t give up,” said Lippi.

“Some people might think if I can’t take this team to the World Cup, I will be a failure, but I don’t agree with that. If we can’t qualify, at least I hope to see my team make progress. If I see that, then my work gets paid back.”

China must hope group leaders Iran beat third-placed Uzbekistan on Monday in Tehran, a result which would see Carlos Queiroz’s unbeaten side qualify, before claiming revenge over Syria for October’s 1-0 home defeat.

Seeds of growth as China claim historic win over South Korea, but too little too late for World Cup chances

That would lift China to the same number of points as fourth-place Syria, but crucially four points behind Uzbekistan, with third place earning a place in the play-offs.

China then entertain Uzbekistan in August before Lippi’s side round off their campaign in Doha against Qatar in September, while the Central Asians entertain South Korea.

Watch: China 0-1 Syria highlights

“If we want to keep our hopes alive it depends on whether we can win three successive games,” added Lippi.

“We have to pray our opponent gets zero wins. The situation is very difficult for us, but we will try to win three games in a row at all costs.”

‘Room for improvement’ for China but time running out on World Cup chances after Iran defeat

China beat the Philippines 8-1 in a friendly last week, but Syria will pose a new threat entirely having held their own in group A, beating Uzbekistan before sharing a 1-1 friendly draw with Japan last week.

And China’s problems are further complicated with the absences of influential captain Zheng Zhi, defender Mei Fang, as well as forwards Yu Dabao and Cao Yunding, due to injury.

Watch: China 8-1 Philippines highlights

“Since I took on this job our team has only scored once in three games and they also only conceded one goal. I hope we will be lucky enough to win the next three games,” added Lippi.

“We’ve still got many competitive players and all of them are eager to play this game.”

Iran blow hole in China’s World Cup bid

Elsewhere in group A, South Korea will look to edge closer towards a ninth successive World Cup with a win in Qatar.

The Taeguk Warriors sit in second, four points behind Iran and one above Uzbekistan, but a series of indifferent performances has raised the possibility of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1982.

Watch: China 1-0 South Korea highlights

Against Qatar, defeat would see the team’s German coach Uli Stielike come under increasing pressure.

A 0-0 draw with Iraq in a friendly last week resulted in harsh criticism of South Korea, who had no shots on target.

“The result was not good against Iraq, but the atmosphere in the team is fine,” said Son Heung-min, who scored 21 goals in the English Premier League season with Tottenham Hotspur.

“I also did not play well against Iraq, but we are preparing well for Qatar and we all know how important it is.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press