Marcello Lippi has resigned as head coach of the China national team after seeing his side slip to a 2-1 loss to Syria in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Dubai yesterday. The Italian quit during his news conference after an own goal from defender Zhang Linpeng left China five points adrift of the table-topping Syrians at the halfway point of the qualification group stage.
“My pay is very high, and I take all the blame,” Lippi was quoted as saying by the Chinese media. “I am quitting as China coach.” Only the winners from each of the eight qualification groups for the finals in Qatar will advance to the next round, with the four runners-up with the best records also progressing.
China, who are attempting to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2002, are currently in second place in Group A with seven points alongside the Philippines, with Syria holding a maximum 12 points from their first four games. This is the second time this year that Lippi, who led Italy to a World Cup triumph in 2006, has left the role as China’s head coach. The 71-year-old, who also won five Serie A titles and a Champions League across two spells in charge of Juventus, reversed his decision to stand down from the role in January having refused to sign a new contract following the team’s quarter-final exit at the Asian Cup.
His return came in March after compatriot Fabio Cannavaro helmed the country during the China Cup friendly tournament on an interim basis and was followed by a series of attempts to bolster the national squad.
England-born midfielder Nico Yennaris became the first overseas-born player to be selected by China. Soon after Elkeson, a Brazilian striker who has set scoring records in the Chinese Super League, was the first player without Chinese ancestry to gain citizenship and play for China.
Those additions, though, have not been enough to improve the squad and Lippi has been under pressure since his team was held to a 0-0 draw last month by the Philippines
Meanwhile, Bert van Marwijk’s United Arab Emirates and Marc Wilmots’ Iran also suffered defeats that could have serious ramifications for their 2022 World Cup qualification hopes. The big-name European coaches endured a torrid time in Asia’s second round of preliminaries with the UAE beaten 1-0 by Vietnam and Iran falling to a 2-1 defeat against Iraq. Van Marwijk endured a miserable evening as his UAE side — who played the last 50 minutes with 10 men after Khalifa al-Hammadi was sent off — lost to Vietnam to drop to third in Group G. The Vietnamese lead with 10 points with Thailand in second on seven after their 2-1 defeat against Malaysia ensured Tan Cheng Hoe’s team remain in contention for a place in the next phase of the competition.
Wilmots’ Iran lost to old foes Iraq, with Alaa Abbas scoring in injury time to give Srecko Katanec’s side command of Group C, which they lead with 10 points, two clear of Bahrain, who drew 0-0 with Hong Kong. Iran have six points. There was better news for Paulo Bento as his South Korea team drew 0-0 with Lebanon in Beirut in a match played behind closed doors due to security concerns. South Korea stay on top of Group H while Turkmenistan remained in the race for a place in the next round with a 3-1 win over North Korea.
Japan maintained their perfect record thanks to goals from Takumi Minamino and Genki Haraguchi, which sealed a 2-0 win for Hajime Moriyasu’s side over Kyrgyzstan to give the Samurai Blue 12 points from four games.
Japan lead Group F from Kyrgyzstan, who are level on six points with third-placed Tajikistan after their 4-3 defeat to Myanmar. Salem al-Dawsari broke Uzbek hearts in Tashkent with a last-minute lob to give Saudi Arabia a 3-2 win in Group D.
Herve Renard’s Saudi side leapfrog Uzbekistan into first place, two points clear of Vadim Abramov’s team, while in Group E Seminlen Doungel scored in injury time to earn India a 1-1 draw with Afghanistan.
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