Football: World Cup 2022 or bust for Lippi on China return, country will host 2023 Asian Cup

Marcello Lippi has little time to lose if he is to inspire China to only their second World Cup appearance.
Marcello Lippi has little time to lose if he is to inspire China to only their second World Cup appearance.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Marcello Lippi says he will quit for a second time if he fails to guide ambitious China to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The 71-year-old Italian World Cup winner is back as national coach just four months after leaving.

But with qualification for Qatar 2022 beginning in September, the under-pressure veteran has little time to lose if he is to inspire China to only their second World Cup appearance.

"Will we qualify for the Qatar World Cup? I don't know, we will try, we will make every effort," the former Juventus, Inter Milan, Napoli and Italy coach told broadcaster CCTV5.

"If we can do it, that's great, if we can't, I will embrace all the Chinese and go home," he added in his first substantive comments since his return was confirmed last week.

"This is work, this is life - using all passion, all enthusiasm, all experience to try to do one thing, but the final result may be success or it may be failure."

The Italian, who was speaking ahead of Friday's (June 7) home friendly with the Philippines, said that he had declined to extend his contract with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) after his side lost 3-0 to Iran in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in January.

 
 
 
 

But Lippi remained popular in China, where there was an acceptance that he did not have a good-enough squad to progress further.

"After staying at home for three or four months, I realised that China's appreciation and expectation of me was so important so I decided to give something back," he explained in the interview broadcast on Monday.

"I have not made a long-term commitment because it makes no sense - our goal is Qatar in 2022."

Guangzhou Evergrande coach Fabio Cannavaro, Lippi's captain when Italy won the 2006 World Cup, succeeded his mentor earlier this year.

But Cannavaro lost both matches in charge of the national side and stepped down.

Separately, the Asian Football Confederation confirmed on Tuesday (June 4) that China will stage the 2023 Asian Cup, a possible dry-run for hosting a World Cup, after all the other countries in the running dropped their bids.

It will mark the second time China has hosted the quadrennial continental tournament, after the 2004 edition when they finished runners-up to Japan.

"It's great for China, a great honour for China to be hosts of the 2023 Asian Cup. We are ready and confident of staging a successful tournament," Chinese Fifa Council member Du Zhaocai said at the AFC Extraordinary Congress in Paris.

Last month, South Korea abandoned its bid to stage the tournament, leaving China as the sole candidate with a free run to become hosts.

Thailand and Indonesia had also previously expressed interest in hosting the 2023 event, but had dropped out earlier.

China's football-fan President Xi Jinping has stated his aim for the country to stage the showpiece World Cup one day and wants the country to become a major force in the sport.

China, who have qualified only once for the World Cup in 2002, are ranked a lowly 74th in the world in Fifa's rankings, sandwiched between Panama and Cape Verde.

This year's Asian Cup in the UAE was expanded to 24 nations for the first time, with Qatar winning the final 3-1 against Japan.