China to spare no ef­forts for win

Team to try best for three points: head coach Lippi

Global Times - - Sports - By Lu Wen’ao in Wuhan

China’s na­tional soc­cer team head coach Mar­cello Lippi said Wed­nes­day they are well­pre­pared for Thurs­day’s match against Uzbek­istan, as the team face a do- or- die sit­u­a­tion in their World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign.

“At the mo­ment we still have the chance to qual­ify; we will try our best to get three points,” the 62- year- old vet­eran Ital­ian coach told a press con­fer­ence in Wuhan, Hubei Prov­ince.

“There are two matches re­main­ing; we can’t give up. With the same play­ers, we have played to­gether four matches, and we did bet­ter than be­fore.”

Lippi was named head coach of China in Oc­to­ber, when they failed to grab a sin­gle win af­ter four qual­i­fy­ing games and were lan­guish­ing at the bot­tom of the group.

Un­der his guid­ance, China achieved a sen­sa­tional win over long­time ri­vals South Korea in March.

Now, though China are still in the same po­si­tion in the group, their fans have ap­plauded the ob­vi­ous im­prove­ment in their play.

“I am sat­is­fied with the big im­prove­ment of the team; we hope to achieve the best re­sult we want,” Lippi added. “The prob­lem is we weren’t so lucky, we should have won some more games.”

China were kept to a score­less draw at home to Qatar in Novem­ber and an in­jury- time goal from Syria’s Al Salih de­nied China’s 2- 1 lead in June. Lippi said his side had per­formed bet­ter in both those games than in the one against the Taegeuk War­riors.

Lippi, who mas­ter­minded his home coun­try’s tri­umph at the 2006 World Cup, also noted that the play­ers are very fo­cused on Thurs­day’s match af­ter spend­ing six days in Wuhan, and said the squad is con­fi­dent for the game.

But their bot­tom po­si­tion means China need to win both re­main­ing matches if they want to keep their flickering World Cup hopes alive, and hope Uzbek­istan and Syria grab as few points as pos­si­ble in their re­main­ing games.

China sit 77th in the lat­est FIFA rank­ings – eighth in Asia – while vis­i­tors Uzbek­istan are 64th in the world. China suf­fered a 2- 0 loss away to Uzbek­istan in the pre­vi­ous meet­ing be­tween the two sides in Oc­to­ber 2016 in Tashkent.

The team’s morale is high, agreed cap­tain Zheng Zhi, but he warned his team­mates not to be com­pla­cent over the dif­fi­culty of the qual­i­fi­ca­tion games.

“It’s our last home game,” said the Guangzhou Ever­grande mid­fielder. “From the pre­vi­ous qual­i­fiers we know the se­ries is not easy, but we have to be fo­cused on the match and try our best to win the game to pay trib­ute to the en­thu­si­as­tic fans.”

China will need goals if they want to lift them­selves off the bot­tom of the group and into third place for a play­off spot. They have only scored five goals, but con­ceded nine.

Uzbek­istan, a phys­i­cally strong side in Asian soc­cer, are hop­ing to grab a point be­fore head­ing back home to host South Korea.

Uzbek­istan head coach Samvel Babayan noted that though China have seen a huge change in their soc­cer in re­cent months, at­tract­ing three Uzbek play­ers to the Chi­nese Su­per League, they’ve al­ready had “enough in­for­ma­tion” on the Chi­nese na­tional team.

“China has be­come the cen­ter of world foot­ball. All the things hap­pen­ing here have a huge im­pact on the na­tional team of China ... In short, they are pro­gress­ing,” said Babayan.

He un­der­lined Thurs­day’s match is im­por­tant to both sides, and said he will not think about their fi­nal qual­i­fier be­fore the end of Thurs­day’s duel.

“No mat­ter if you have the chance [ to qual­ify] or not, if you are wear­ing the na­tional team jersey, you have to do the best on the pitch,” the 46- year- old said on both teams’ chances of qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Photo: CFP

Chi­nese play­ers take part in a train­ing ses­sion on Wed­nes­day in Wuhan, Hubei Prov­ince ahead of their World Cup qual­i­fier against Uzbek­istan on Thurs­day.

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