2018 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifying

From Lang Ping to Big Sam, five candidates who could become China’s next manager – and three who almost certainly won’t

With the team having no chance of reaching the World Cup, is it time to think outside the box?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 11:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 1:10am

China’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup are effectively over after just four games of qualifying round three following the national team’s latest defeat, 2-0 to Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

After the match, coach Gao Hongbo read a prepared statement announcing his resignation and left without taking further questions.

With President Xi Jinping demanding China become a “football superpower”, here’s eight candidates, some tongue-in-cheek, some genuine, to guide the team to glory:

Lang Ping

Bear with us here. China’s women’s volleyball coach is a national hero and cultural icon for her success with the team in the 1980s. She led the US to victory over the hosts at Beijing 2008 in positively traitorous fashion, but redeemed herself in Rio this year by taking the gold medal with China. Dubbed the “Iron Hammer”, she successfully eliminated interference from government bureaucrats as China coach and brought in foreign experts to help guide the team. The first person to win gold as player and coach, some on Weibo were calling for her to be given the job – and let’s face it, she couldn’t do worse than the previous incumbents.

Gregorio Manzano

The Spaniard is currently in charge of Shanghai Shenhua and has impressed fans and commentators in China with the job he’s done. Shanghai are currently third in the table. The former Atletico Madrid, Mallorca and Sevilla coach has been in China since 2014, when he took charge of Beijing Guoan and was CFA coach of the year in 2014. The 60-year-old began his coaching career aged just 27 but has only one trophy to his name, the 2003 Copa del Rey.

‘Should Chinese football start from scratch?’ asks state media after another World Cup qualifying defeat

Luiz Felipe Scolari

A World Cup winner as Brazil coach in 2002, ‘Big Phil’ certainly delivers on the “show us your medals” criterion. His career since has not been overly impressive, with an ill-fated spell at Chelsea ending with the sack in 2009. He oversaw Brazil’s biggest World Cup defeat after taking charge for a second time, the 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil in 2014. The 67-year-old has guided Guangzhou Evergrande to success, winning the Chinese Super League and Asian Champions League, but critics will argue that is more down to Guangzhou’s financial dominance than coaching acumen.

Marcello Lippi

The suave 68-year-old Italian is one of the most successful managers ever. Won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, and guided Juventus to five Serie A titles. He laid the foundations for Guangzhou’s domestic dominance after taking over in 2012, winning three titles and the Asian Champions League. He is the only man to have won the Uefa and AFC Champions Leagues. Resigned from Guangzhou in 2014 and said he was retiring, but has recently said he is ready to return. Said in September: “Yes, it’s true – I am thinking about going back [to China]. I had a good time in China – it was an exciting challenge.”

Guus Hiddink

The Dutch coach gained plaudits for his work with South Korea in the 2002 World Cup, becoming a hero in the country after guiding them to fourth place. Decent success in the next World Cup too with Australia in 2006 and has also managed Netherlands (fourth place World Cup 98) and Russia (Euro 2008 semi-finals). Most recently was caretaker coach of Chelsea for a second time. The 69-year-old has been linked with the England job and has been casting flirtatious glances at old flame Russia, so China might have to move fast – in their favour, he’ll probably go where the money is greatest.

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Has not exactly been a raging success with Shanghai SIPG, but the Swede is still admired by many Chinese football fans for his time in charge with England. The first manager to win league and cup doubles in three different countries, though since leaving Manchester City in 2008 he has appeared primarily to be interested in packing his pension fund – not that would be a hindrance to taking charge of China.

And here’s three who probably won’t be called up:

Jose Mourinho

The Portuguese has been “helping” Chinese football in undefined ways since his close associate “super-agent” Jorge Mendes hopped aboard the big-money CSL gravy train. To be honest, it’s unclear if Mourinho’s “help” extends to more than just posing for photos and accepting fat cheques for appearances. China would no doubt love to have the superstar at the reins, but have surely missed the boat after he took charge at Manchester United. His reign at Old Trafford is not exactly off to a stellar start however ...

Sam Allardyce

Had a 100 per cent winning record with England, albeit his spell in charge ended after just one game and 67 days. Clearly a fan of China – his downfall came in a Chinese restaurant as he drank a pint of wine with undercover journalists posing to be “Far East businessmen”. Shane Moloney, Allardyce’s financial adviser told the “businessmen” in the Telegraph’s hidden-camera sting: “I know Singapore, China, the idea of an England manager out there in China. Huge. And that’s … that’s the value of it. They’ll come just to be there. To hear him.” With Chinese football in need of a messiah, who better than Big Sam?

President Xi Jinping

Xi Dada is constantly said to be the main man behind China’s drive to become a “football superpower”, and if you want a job done properly ... The great man has shown there’s little he cannot do, whether it’s writing best-selling books or becoming a billionaire through sagacious business investments, so World Cup qualification should be a doddle. Let the Great Football Leap Forward commence.