Lippi down to busi­ness as China host Qatar

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

MAR­CELLO Lippi said China need to shed their “un­der­dog” men­tal­ity as he faces a tough first game in charge – a World Cup qual­i­fier against Qatar that nei­ther team can af­ford to lose.

While Lippi, who coached Italy to win the 2006 World Cup, ad­mits rock-bot­tom China need a “mir­a­cle” to reach Rus­sia 2018, he said top pri­or­ity was restor­ing their swag­ger.

“It is im­por­tant to re­store the team’s con­fi­dence,” said Lippi, ac­cord­ing to the FIFA web­site, ahead of to­day’s clash in Kun­ming.

“We will fo­cus on first deal­ing with the Qataris and then South Korea. Our chief aim is World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion. I hope we can achieve a mir­a­cle.

“But even if we fail to make it, we should make sure that the team makes good progress in the process and build for the fu­ture. Then we will switch our fo­cus to the next Asian Cup.”

Lippi last month took charge of China, which des­per­ately needs a lift after de­feats to South Korea, Syria and Uzbek­istan left them bot­tom in Group A with one point from four games.

The world’s most pop­u­lous na­tion dreams of be­com­ing a foot­ball su­per­power, but China have only reached one World Cup, in 2002, which they ex­ited point­less and goal­less.

There are par­al­lels to be drawn with am­bi­tious Qatar, who will host the Mid­dle East’s first World Cup in 2022 but who are also floun­der­ing and lie sec­ond from bot­tom.

In both groups A and B, only the top two of six teams are as­sured of a trip to the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia, with the third-placed sides go­ing into a play-off se­ries.

But Lippi said China shouldn’t feel in­fe­rior to their op­po­nents as they have per­formed well in patches, notably their re­cov­ery from 3-0 down to 3-2 against South Korea.

“Our play­ers were not in peak form but they proved that they are by no means the un­der­dogs,” he said.

China and Qatar are not the only teams des­per­ate for a win, as Ja­pan need to turn around their fortunes in Group B while host­ing Saudi Ara­bia

The four-time Asian cham­pi­ons, stunned at home by UAE in Septem­ber, cur­rently lie third. But vic­tory will put them level on points with the top­placed Saudis.

Aus­tralia, sec­ond in the group, will be favourites against Thai­land in Bangkok, where a ban on cheer­ing dur­ing mourn­ing for King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej has been re­laxed.

In Group A, South Korea can leapfrog Uzbek­istan into sec­ond place if they beat the Uzbeks in Seoul, while war-torn Syria host table-top­pers Iran in Paroi, Malaysia. –

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