Re­al­ity check for Lippi

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

MAR­CELLO LIPPI’S dreams of tak­ing China to the next World Cup re­ceived a re­al­ity check yes­ter­day, while Asian cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia were made to sweat in a near-night­mare in Bangkok.

China’s 0-0 draw with Qatar did noth­ing to boost their dwin­dling hopes of reach­ing Rus­sia 2018, even af­ter World Cup-win­ning coach Lippi was ap­pointed last month.

Mile Je­d­i­nak scored twice from the spot as Aus­tralia came from be­hind to draw 2-2 with Thai­land, drop­ping out of Group B’s au­to­matic qualifying places as a re­sult.

Else­where Ja­pan eased the pres­sure on coach Vahid Halil­hodzic with a 2-1 win over Saudi Ara­bia, while South Korea needed Koo JaCheol’s late win­ner to over­come Uzbek­istan 2-1.

Lippi ar­rived in China with great fan­fare – and re­port­edly, a huge pay cheque – but he was un­able to start with a win which would have lifted them off the bot­tom of Group A.

The Ital­ian ad­mits am­bi­tious China need a “mir­a­cle” to reach Rus­sia, which would be only their sec­ond World Cup af­ter their sole ap­pear­ance ended point­less and goal­less in 2002.

China en­joyed more chances but they were un­able to find the break­through against 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, who re­main sec­ond from bot­tom and also un­likely to qual­ify for 2018.

In Bangkok, Teerasil Dangda’s dou­ble left Aus­tralia on the brink of a shock de­feat, be­fore Soc­ceroos cap­tain Je­d­i­nak scored his sec­ond penalty of the night on 65 min­utes.

The draw de­moted Aus­tralia from sec­ond to third in their group, a point be­hind Saudi Ara­bia and Ja­pan, with only the top two win­ning au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Rus­sia.

“I think to come away with less than three points here is a real shame, a big dis­ap­point­ment,” said As­ton Villa’s Je­d­i­nak.

“We have to move for­ward, we need to as­sess what’s gone wrong here and try to rec­tify it quickly.”

Goals from Hiroshi Kiy­otake and Genki Haraguchi put Ja­pan back on track as they beat Saudi Ara­bia 2-1 in Saitama to go level on points with the vis­i­tors at the top of Group B.

Kiy­otake’s penalty on the stroke of half­time was hotly dis­puted by the Saudis and scuf­fles broke out be­tween the play­ers as they dis­ap­peared down the tun­nel.

“Credit to the play­ers for beat­ing a good Saudi team,” said Halil­hodzic, whose fu­ture has been plunged into doubt af­ter a poor run of form dur­ing the qualifying cam­paign.

“This is a big vic­tory for us but it was a de­served one,” added the Franco-Bos­nian, af­ter his side im­proved to 10 points from five games, with five re­main­ing.

China’s coach Mar­cello Lippi (left) walks on the side­line as Jiang Zhipeng takes a throw-in dur­ing yes­ter­day’s 2018 World Cup qualifying match against Qatar in Kun­ming, in China’s Yun­nan prov­ince. – AFPPIX

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