Lippi ex­pected to take over as China’s head coach

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

World Cup-win­ning man­ager Mar­cello Lippi is re­port­edly on the verge of re­turn­ing to China as a coach, this time as head of the na­tional team rather than the big-spend­ing club where he spent three years.

China Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of­fi­cial Huang Shi­wei yes­ter­day­con­firmed the se­lec­tion process to re­place Goa Hongbo was on­go­ing, but de­clined to give any de­tails ex­cept to say that an an­nounce­ment was ex­pected by Nov. 1.

Ital­ian me­dia re­ports sug­gested the 68-year-old Lippi, a for­mer Ju­ven­tus man­ager who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup ti­tle, would sign a lu­cra­tive deal next week to take over a Chi­nese team that is strug­gling in Asian qual­i­fy­ing for the 2018 World Cup.

Gao stepped down as head coach after a 2-0 loss in Uzbek­istan last week, leav­ing China with one point from four qual­i­fy­ing matches and with lit­tle hope of mak­ing it to Rus­sia in 2018.

Lippi was head coach at Guangzhou Ever­grande from 2012-14, guid­ing the south­ern China club to three do­mes­tic ti­tles and an Asian Cham­pi­ons League crown.

After stand­ing down as Ever­grande man­ager, Lippi said he’d re­tired from coach­ing. But he changed his mind ear­lier this year when he said “after many months at home I re­al­ized I miss the field.”

China is mo­bi­liz­ing un­der Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s drive to over­haul the game do­mes­ti­cally and turn the Chi­nese team into a World Cup win­ner by 2050.

De­spite mas­sive in­vest­ment from the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor - the govern­ment is also fo­cus­ing on youth de­vel­op­ment - the stan­dard of the na­tional team has not kept pace with the im­prove­ment on the do­mes­tic league, which is lur­ing star play­ers in record­break­ing trans­fers and coaches from around the world.

China is host­ing Qatar next month in its last World Cup qual­i­fier of the year, and there are five more qual­i­fiers in 2017, start­ing in March.

China’s only ap­pear­ance at the World Cup was in 2002, when it failed to score a goal in the tour­na­ment that was co­hosted by South Korea and Ja­pan.

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