China held to a 1-1 draw by North Korea in Japan as late equaliser consigns Marcello Lippi’s team to third
Shanghai SIPG youngster Wei Shihao nets for second time at the tournament as manager admits he is likely to turn to experience for his next squad
Wei Shihao was on target for the second time in three games as China were held to a 1-1 draw by North Korean on Saturday evening, but Marcello Lippi will continue to look for additional ways to solve the country’s goalscoring conundrum.
The Shanghai SIPG striker gave China the lead 28 minutes into the country’s final game of the East Asian Championship at Ajinomoto Stadium as Lippi’s team finished the tournament with two draws and a loss to take third place overall.
The young striker, part of an inexperienced and experimental squad, impressed on his debut tournament appearance for China.
But, as Lippi continues to steer the team towards what he hopes will be a successful showing at the Asian Cup finals in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, the World Cup-winning Italian revealed he is looking to further strengthen his team’s attacking options.
“To improve the quality of the squad is very important and Wei Shihao showed his quality at this tournament and I had hoped he would improve our performance,” he said of the 22-year-old, who also scored on his debut last week as China drew 2-2 with South Korea.
“He’s not the best player in his club team because there are a lot of good foreign players there, but I was able to identify his strength. We needed to have a striker who would strengthen the attacking side and that’s why I called him up.
“But that’s something I’d still like to do on the striking side.”
China looked set to take their first win of the competition, despite an improved second half performance from the North Koreans, until Jong Il-gwan’s free kick wrong-footed Wang Dalei to earn Jorn Andersen’s side a share of the points.
That provided an anticlimax to the tournament for China after a strong start against South Korea and a 2-1 loss against Japan.
Much had been made of Lippi’s decision to include six players – including Wei – aged 22 or under and he stressed once again his decision had been taken with one eye on the country’s hosting of the Asian Under-23 Championship, which will be played in China in January.
“We had a purpose for this championship and that was that we wanted to pick some under-23 players so that for January next year they will be able to focus on the Asian U-23 Championship,” he said
“I want to be able to form a new team, a new squad for the future. The result was very good and I’m very happy about that.
“It’s very important to have experience, to play international matches. They didn’t have that experience, so the purpose was to give them that experience and through these three matches I believe they performed well and they played well to an extent, more or less.
“I’d like them to improve more and it’s important for them to grow and if they do then the national team will grow and they will show a different kind of performance at the Asian Under-23 Championships.
“I hope these players will develop and can grow and be start of a strong national team because I need to identify good young players in China.”
Despite the growth of the young players, though, Lippi stressed he would likely turn to his veteran performers when the national team reconvenes during the next international window.
“I believe the experienced players will come back to the squad in March next year,” he said.