Fabio Cannavaro

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China FA silent on prospects of Lippi replacing Cannavaro

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The Chinese Football Association is staying silent over speculation that Marcello Lippi could make a surprise return to take over the national team job after Fabio Cannavaro quit this week.

With China’s official state news agency and Italian media outlets reporting Lippi is back in the country ready to sign a deal, the CFA declined a request for comment from the Associated Press.

Cannavaro lifted the World Cup in 2006 as captain of an Italy team that was coached by Lippi. He succeeded the 71-year-old Lippi at the helm of China’s national team in January but handed in his notice after just two games and two defeats against Uzbekistan and Thailand.

“Out of respect for the country that has been hosting me for some years, I feel the duty to communicate that I have renounced my position as head coach of the Chinese national football team,” Cannavaro posted on social media to explain his decision.

Cannavaro was combining the national team post with his position as head coach of Guangzhou Evergrande – a team coached by Lippi from 2012-14 – and announced that he wants to focus solely on leading China’s leading club.

“I wish to sincerely thank Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club and the Chinese Football Association for having offered me the position of the head coach of the two most important football teams in the country, however, this double assignment would take me away from my family for too long.”

It leaves China, ranked No. 74 in the world by FIFA, without a coach just four months ahead of the start of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Lippi could be an easy replacement, although his first stint in charge of China from October 2016 until he returned to Italy in January, didn’t produce the results that the CFA hoped for.

China reached the last eight of the Asian Cup despite having the oldest roster in the 24-team tournament.

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Gianluigi Buffon to become Italy’s most-capped player

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Tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier may not technically mean much for Italy as they take on Denmark in Group B play.

However, for the country’s soccer history it means everything.

Barring a catastrophe, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will enter Italian soccer lore as the most-capped player in the country’s illustrious history, passing “The Berlin Wall,” defender Fabio Cannavaro.

It will be the 137th appearance by Buffon for his country, and the legend summed up his thoughts perfectly in speaking with the Italian Football Federation’s official website.

“The national team is a reference point for me, it’s the most beautiful expression of our football” said the 35-year-old.  He also called the sport of soccer his country’s “most valuable export.”

Buffon has spent his entire club career in his home country, spending six years at Parma before making the switch to Juventus and appearing in 363 league matches for The Old Lady.

Buffon is the only goalkeeper ever to win the UEFA Footballer of the Year award, has been elected to the UEFA Team of the Year three times, won Serie A goalkeeper of the year a record nine times, won a World Cup in 2006 and was awarded the Golden Glove (formerly the Yashin Award) that season, and he came a spot away from winning the coveted Ballon d’Or – usually reserved for the sexier, more publicized goalscoring players – in 2006 (which he fittingly lost out to Cannavaro).

His legend was no doubt sealed in that World Cup-winning year of 2006, as he kept five clean sheets and conceded a World Cup record-low two goals all tournament (three if you include Cristian Zaccardo’s own goal), none of which came from open play.

While Italy will be trying to stave off Denmark’s charge for a World Cup qualifying spot on Friday, they will no doubt honor Buffon’s legendary contributions to his country on and off the field of play.

Oh, and in true Buffon fashion, he said, “It is an important milestone – but it will not be the last.” Expect to see the man in goal making important saves for at least a little while longer.