China back coach Marcello Lippi until 2019 Asian Cup regardless of World Cup qualifying fate
Final two games against Uzbekistan and Qatar over the next two weeks will confirm the standings in group A on the road to Russia 2018
With China’s 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying fate finally to be determined over the next two weeks, officials have confirmed Italian coach Marcello Lippi will remain in charge until the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Former Italy and Guangzhou Evergrande Lippi took over in October 2016 charged with the seemingly impossible task of rescuing China’s chances of qualifying for Russia 2018.
Lippi has managed to keep China in contention heading into the final two games in group A against Uzbekistan at home next Thursday and Qatar away the following Tuesday, although it would still be a major surprise if China were able to lift themselves off the foot of the six-team table and into the play-off spot offered by third place.
But with China having already qualified for the expanded 24-team continental championship in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) have backed the 69-year-old Italian regardless of the results against Uzbekistan and Qatar.
“We will strictly carry out our contract with Lippi which expires after the 2019 Asian Cup,” said the CFA.
“We won’t interfere with his preparation and the line up. In the mean time, we will support his group as always. We hope to support and trust each other.”
Lippi is reported to have visited the CFA headquarters before meeting up with his squad ahead of next Thursday’s meeting with Uzbekistan in Wuhan, with the Central Asians holding that coveted third place behind Iran and South Korea.
Before June’s dramatic 2-2 draw with Syria, Lippi had suggested he would not have failed with China if he did not lead them to what would be only their second-ever World Cup appearance having taken over following three losses from the first four games in group A.
Lippi’s China have shown signs of progress and the CFA’s support matches with the desire to improve the national team, who are ranked 77th in the world.
He oversaw March’s 1-0 home win over South Korea, although June’s draw with Syria in Malaysia did severely dent any chances of qualification with China needing to beat Uzbekistan and Qatar to simply match the points total held by the Central Asians after eight games.
China would also need Uzbekistan to lose to South Korea at home at the start of the next month, coupled with Syria also dropping points against Qatar and already-qualified Iran.
Marcello Lippi to give success-starved China glimpse of future during qualifier with World Cup hopes all but over
“Since October 22 last year, Lippi and his coaching staff have helped China to get one win, two draws and one defeat in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup,” added the CFA.
“The team has changed a lot tactically and mentally. We hereby take this opportunity to thank them all.”