Lippi stays positive despite qualifying failure

China forward Xiao Zhi and Qatar's Boualem Khoukhi (far left) challenge for the ball during a World Cup qualifier. China won 2-1.
China forward Xiao Zhi and Qatar's Boualem Khoukhi (left) challenge for the ball during a World Cup qualifier. China won 2-1.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DOHA • China coach Marcello Lippi has said his team have made "real progress for the future" despite their faint hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup ending on Tuesday.

The Chinese played well enough to beat Qatar with just 10 men in Doha. However, Syria's 2-2 draw in Iran and Uzbekistan's goal-less stalemate with South Korea in Group A of Asian qualifying meant that a 2-1 win was futile in China's bid to snatch a play-off berth for the Finals in Russia.

Lippi is optimistic after taking 11 points from their last six games.

"When I arrived we had only one point after four games," the Italian said at a post-match press conference. "We were only a step away from Syria and Uzbekistan. In the home match against Qatar (0-0) we hit the woodwork three times and their goalkeeper was terrific, and in the away game against Syria (2-2), we were leading until the last minute.

"We deserved victory in those two games, and if we had won we'd have four points more and have finished in second and be in the World Cup."

Results elsewhere on Wednesday meant that China failed to qualify for Russia after they finished fifth. They were one point off of the play-off position, secured by Syria on a night of drama in six-team Group A. Like Syria, Uzbekistan also finished with 13 points.

While Lippi remained confident about China's future, it was another sobering night for their ambitious rivals. Qatar finished bottom of the group, a desperate end for a country anxious to qualify for its first World Cup Finals before it hosts the tournament in 2022.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'Lippi stays positive despite qualifying failure'. Print Edition | Subscribe