Football: Cashed-up China are future Cup contenders: Eriksson

Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Sven-Goran Eriksson.

MELBOURNE • Shanghai SIPG boss Sven-Goran Eriksson believes that China, buoyed by the power and influence of President Xi Jinping, can put aside years of failure at international level and push for men's World Cup glory in a decade.

The Swede's club has, like many Chinese Super League sides, invested heavily of late in new players and facilities after the top football fan demanded that officials improve on just one disappointing group-stage exit at the 2002 World Cup.

China are in danger of an early exit from 2018 World Cup qualifying in Asia but Eriksson, who managed the Ivory Coast at the 2010 tournament, said the country would quickly see the returns on their multi-million dollar investment.

"Ten years ahead, 15 years ahead, I am quite sure that the China national team will compete to win the World Cup," he told reporters ahead of their AFC Champions League opener away to Melbourne Victory today. "The future for China is great."

The much-travelled 68-year-old coach made his managerial name after winning titles in Portugal with Benfica and in Italy with Lazio, before taking over as England coach and later Manchester City.

Eriksson moved to China with Guangzhou R&F in 2013 before taking over at Shanghai a year later and led them to a Super League runner-up finish last term, after signing Argentinian Dario Conca and Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan.

EXCELLENT PROSPECTS

Ten years ahead, 15 years ahead, I am quite sure that the China national team will compete to win the World Cup.

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON, Shanghai SIPG coach, on China's World Cup-winning chances.

He said his move to the burgeoning football market of China had been another fortunate step in his career. "Now 2016, it seems like every football player wants to come to China," said the Swede. "For Chinese football it's very, very good."

Chinese clubs have been on a spending spree in the transfer window, which runs until Friday.

A host of big-name signings have been made, including Brazilian midfielders Alex Teixeira for a record fee of €50 million (S$77.6 million), Chelsea midfielder Ramires, and Atletico Madrid's Colombia striker Jackson Martinez.

Teixeira and Ramires featured in Jiangsu Suning's 1-1 draw away to Vietnamese side Binh Duong in their AFC Champions League Group E clash yesterday.

Former Brazil striker Jo set up Jiangsu defender Ji Xiang in the 13th minute for the opener. But Nguyen Anh Duc equalised from the penalty spot 15 minutes later.

The hosts had Christian Nsi Amougou sent off in the 67th minute but the Chinese side failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage.

Guangzhou Evergrande will be hoping that their marquee signing will have a greater impact.

"Martinez will be the key to our ambition in 2016 to successfully defend the Chinese Super League title and AFC Champions League trophy," the club said on their website of the €42 million signing, ahead of their clash against Pohang Steelers today.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Cashed-up China are future Cup contenders: Eriksson'. Print Edition | Subscribe