Marcello Lippi happy to sign on to lead China to 2022 World Cup after building team for future
Italian boss willing to add another three years to his contract, but 2019 Asian Cup remains the immediate priority
Italian Marcello Lippi would welcome a second chance to lead China to the World Cup finals after an unsuccessful mission to Russia 2018.
In an exclusive interview published in Friday’s Chengdu Commercial Daily, Lippi revealed he is willing in principle to accept an extension of his existing contract by three more years to include the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying campaign.
“My existing contract runs until January 2019 at the completion of the Asian Cup finals,” said Lippi, who is back home for the Christmas holidays.
“They offered me another three-year contract until the end of the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar, which means I can lead the team for the qualification tournament.
“I would like to accept it, but since my current contract still has more than one year left on it, there may be changes of the situation during this period. Let’s see what will happen in the next couple of months.”
This is the first time the World Cup-winning manager has spoken about his future as China boss beyond the 2019 Asian Cup finals, according to the newspaper.
An extension would be welcomed in China where many observers have written of their desire for Lippi to extend his stay as national team coach.
Lippi has been hailed the saviour of Chinese soccer by many fans after his achievements at Guangzhou Evergrande where he brought the club three successive Chinese Super League titles from 2012 onwards and became the first Chinese club to win the AFC Champions League in 2013.
He left Guangzhou in early 2015 but came back to China as the national team coach in October last year after they had collected only one point in the first four games of the third round of the Asia qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.
Lippi was able to deliver 11 points in the next six games but still China were edged out, ending three points behind South Korea who finished second to join group winners Iran in qualifying for the finals in Russia.
Despite not qualifying, Lippi was backed to stay on until after the 2019 Asian Cup by the Chinese Football Association.
The Italian said he loved the idea of staying in China as he and his team had built something very important in just a year.
“When we first came here, the situation was tricky for the national team but still we could make the qualification possible for the Russia World Cup.
“The team has grown up a lot over this period and then I was able to work out something for the Under-23 squad and this is also important as we are building a team for the future,” he said.
While the 2022 World Cup finals is still distant, Lippi said the 2019 Asian Cup was the immediate target.
“We are already in the finals and with some good performances this year, we have improved our Fifa ranking from 90th to 71st just behind Australia, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“If in the end we can become one of the seeded teams in Qatar and come up with a good draw, it would already be a great achievement.”
China have only qualified for one World Cup, held in Japan and South Korea in 2002. Bora Milutinovic’s side did not score a goal or earn a point at their debut finals.
The next game for Lippi’s side is against Wales in March.