January 10 – Marcello Lippi has defended his tenure at the helm of the Chinese national team, citing the emergence of young players as a long-term benefit. On Friday three points against the Philippines will ensure China’s progress to the knockout stages of the 2019 Asian Cup.
Lippi signed for China in 2016, but critics have argued that the national team stagnated during his reign and didn’t advance China’s cause of becoming a power in the global game. They qualified for the finals as one of the four best runners-up in round two, but fell short in World Cup qualification.
“When I took this job two years ago I knew it was a big challenge,” responded Lippi when asked about his long-term contribution to Chinese football. “At that time it was the World Cup qualifiers for Russia. Before I arrived this team got one point in four matches. With a big motivation we collected 11 points in the last six matches. With only one point we could have made it to the next stage to dream about the World Cup,” he said.
“Later, we have played a few of friendlies. In this friendly matches I gave some young players the opportunity to show quality and ability, but for the Asian Cup I needed my best and old players with big experience in international tournaments. That is why I called them up for this big tournament.”
“At the same time we saw that the young players still have a lot of work to do, because they didn’t have international experience, but I am confident that the future of the Chinese football will be better and better. You can see big youth movement in China in the youth teams, the U-19, the U-21, and the Olympic team. I am confident that we are going to have more and more good players coming up for these young teams.”
Lippi has demanded an improved performance from his players against Sven-Goran Ericksson’s debutant Philippines. China were slow starters slow against Kyrgyzstan before doing enough to scrape through 2-1 winners.
“Football is this, you have to defend well and at the same time attack well,” explained Lippi. “Every match is like that. You can also win 2,1, 3-2, 4-3. The most important [thing] is to have the right balance between attack and defence. What is important for us is to keep the same attention and intensity of the second half of the last match. We can’t make the same mistakes of the first half of the first game. We know that and we will try our best to keep the same performance that we had during the second half.”
His counterpart Eriksson has been in the Philippines for three months in a mission to deliver a credible result with the ‘Azkals’ at the Asian Cup. They battled against South Korea and frustrated their much-fancied opponents for 67th minutes before Ui-jo Hwang struck to give the Koreans all the three points. The result was encouraging for the Philippines and Lippi pointed at their European DNA as a forte.
“The Philippines is not an Asian team, it is a European-style team,” declared Lippi. “They have a few players from Germany, Spain and England. The coach is from Sweden, so it is more like European. In general the players are physically more strong. They have good qualities and abilities. They are well organised. We know that it won’t be easy, but we know at the same time to get the points that we need. Once we can collect more points we can qualify for the next stage, so it is very crucial and important for us to do our best and do as much as we can in order to achieve the best result.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1553505894labto1553505894ofdlr1553505894owedi1553505894sni@o1553505894fni1553505894