Lippi urges China to unite for ‘im­prob­a­ble’ World Cup run

Malta Independent - - SPORT WEEKEND SPORT FIXTURES -

Mar­cello Lippi has urged his China team and the na­tion to pull to­gether to ac­com­plish the "im­prob­a­ble" task of qual­i­fy­ing for the 2018 World Cup be­fore he be­gins a thor­ough over­haul of the strug­gling foot­ball pro­gram.

The Chi­nese Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion for­mally un­veiled Lippi as head coach of China's Dragons at a news con­fer­ence on Fri­day, al­most a week af­ter the deal was agreed.

Chi­nese me­dia re­ports say Lippi's three-year con­tract is worth 20 mil­lion eu­ros ($21.8 mil­lion) an­nu­ally and makes him the high­est paid na­tional team coach in the world. As­so­ci­a­tion of­fi­cials have de­clined to dis­cuss specifics of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age for Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup vic­tory in 2006.

China is ranked No. 84 by FIFA and is a peren­nial un­der-achiever in in­ter­na­tional foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion, de­spite mas­sive spend­ing on for­eign play­ers and coaches in the do­mes­tic league. High-pro­file man­agers in­clud­ing World Cup win­ner Luiz Felipe Sco­lari and for­mer Eng­land coach Sven-Go­ran Eriks­son have also ar­rived to take charge at Guangzhou Ever­grande and Shang­hai SIPG.

Still, it's un­likely China will even qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia. Gao Hongbo quit as head coach af­ter the 2-0 loss to Uzbek­istan ear­lier this month left China with just one point from four games in Asia's last round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing. China has qual­i­fied for the World Cup only once, when the tour­na­ment was co-hosted by South Korea and Ja­pan in 2002, but was bounced out of the group stages with­out scor­ing a goal.

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