Marcello Lippi

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Asian Cup: Lippi’s China comes from behind; Vietnam advances (video)

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AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) China fought back from a goal down to beat Thailand 2-1 in the round of 16 of the Asian Cup on Sunday and avoid a potentially embarrassing upset.

Supachai Jaided put Thailand ahead in the 31st minute, turning and shooting despite being surrounded by three defenders, before Chinese striker Wu Lei missed a string of good chances.

World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi brought veteran Xiao Zhi off the bench in the 64th and three minutes later he scored the equalizer, knocking the ball into the net on the rebound from his own saved header.

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Gao Lin quickly added a second from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Chalermpong Kerdkaew. China goalkeeper Yun Junling averted extra time when he stopped Chalermpong’s fierce shot in stoppage time.

China will face either Iran or Oman in Thursday’s quarterfinal as it bids to end a 15-year absence from Asian Cup semifinals. China’s national team has often fallen short despite the country’s long-term ambitions of becoming a soccer superpower and the wealth of Chinese clubs. China has only qualified for the World Cup once, losing all its games in 2002, and lost its only Asian Cup final to Japan two years later.

Thailand, which got out of the Asian Cup group stage for the first time in 47 years, had caretaker coach Sirisak Yodyadthai in charge after firing Milovan Rajevac following its opening group-stage 4-1 loss to India.

Earlier Sunday, Vietnam surprised an on-form Jordan team on penalties to reach the quarterfinals.

The 20-year-old midfielder Bui Tien Dung stroked the winning penalty into the bottom-left corner as Vietnam won the shootout 4-2 after the game finished 1-1 following extra time. Vietnam took the initiative in the shootout after Jordan’s Baha Seif hammered a penalty onto the crossbar and Vietnam’s Russian-born keeper Dang Van Lam leapt to palm away Ahmed Salah’s shot.

Despite being nine places higher in the world rankings, Vietnam was something of an underdog given it had only once before played an Asian Cup knockout game and Jordan had beaten reigning champion Australia in the group stage.

Jordan took the lead in the 39th minute after referee Alireza Faghani gave a rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area for a high foot. After the slightest of touches from a teammate, Baha Abdel-Rahman blasted the ball into the net from a tight angle.

After struggling to create chances in the first half, Vietnam was more incisive after halftime. In the 51st, Nguyen Cong Phuong flicked teammate Nguyen Trong Hoang’s cross high into the net. Shortly after, a Jordan defensive blunder nearly gave Vietnam the lead but Anas Bani Yaseen rushed back to clear the ball off the line.

Vietnam will play either Japan or Saudi Arabia in its first Asian Cup quarterfinal since 2007.

It’s the first time the Asian Cup has had a last-16 round after expanding to 24 teams.

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Lippi leads China over SKorea 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Marcello Lippi earned his biggest victory since taking over as coach of China’s national soccer team, leading his squad to a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.

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The coach, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.

Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the 34th minute, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.

China spent much of the second half defending with the visitors piling on the pressure. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

South Korea has 10 points from six matches in Group A and is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, has five points.

Only the top two teams from the six-nation group qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.

Lippi urges China to unite for ‘improbable’ World Cup run

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BEIJING (AP) Marcello Lippi has urged his China team and the nation to pull together to accomplish the “improbable” task of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup before he begins a thorough overhaul of the struggling football program.

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The Chinese Football Association formally unveiled Lippi as head coach of China’s Dragons at a news conference on Friday, almost a week after the deal was agreed.

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Chinese media reports say Lippi’s three-year contract is worth 20 million euros ($21.8 million) annually and makes him the highest paid national team coach in the world. Association officials have declined to discuss specifics of the compensation package for Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup victory in 2006.

China is ranked No. 84 by FIFA and is a perennial under-achiever in international football competition, despite massive spending on foreign players and coaches in the domestic league. High-profile managers including World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari and former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson have also arrived to take charge at Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG.

“I believe the players are all skillful and have no need to feel inferior or envy toward players of other countries, because they can reach the same level,” Lippi told reporters. “What they need is a sense of responsibility, mission and belief.”

Still, it’s unlikely China will even qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Gao Hongbo quit as head coach after the 2-0 loss to Uzbekistan earlier this month left China with just one point from four games in Asia’s last round of World Cup qualifying. China has qualified for the World Cup only once, when the tournament was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan in 2002, but was bounced out of the group stages without scoring a goal.

“In the qualification stages, our chances are not great, but what we need to do is pull together – the entire squad, the CFA, logistics, medical team – and maximize our chances and accomplish this improbable mission,” Lippi said. “After that, we can consider our long-term issues.”

Above all, the Chinese team – frequently derided by China’s soccer-loving public as a national embarrassment – needs to fix its mentality and gain self-confidence, said Lippi, who said his first priority is to psychologically evaluate his players.

“What I need to know first is why our players play very well for their club but only at 40 percent for their country,” he said. “I want to tell them it’s the highest honor to put on the country’s shirt and they need to fight and perform at the same level.”

Lippi is already familiar with Chinese football at the club level, having coached Guangzhou Evergrande from 2012 to 2015. He led Evergrande to multiple domestic titles and, most notably, the Asian Champions League trophy in 2013.

The financial details of Lippi’s arrangement remains murky, with domestic media reporting his salary will be partially paid for by the real estate group Evergrande, whose owner, Xu Jiayin, is an avid supporter of Chinese football. Other Chinese commentators have questioned whether Lippi’s services are worth the expense.

CFA president Cai Zhenhua declined to address Lippi’s salary on Friday, citing his privacy, but said the amount was fair for a manager of his credentials.

The investment is part of a national soccer push. President Xi Jinping, a big fan of the game, has made improving Chinese football from the grassroots all the way to the international level a priority of his administration, saying it could boost children’s physical education as well as national pride.

China hires Lippi to take over national football team

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BEIJING (AP) China has hired World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi to head its national football team.

China’s football association on Saturday formally announced the hiring of the 68-year-old Lippi, who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

It’s the latest move by China in a national push to become more competitive in soccer. Under President Xi Jinping, a fan of the sport, China has set the goal of becoming a soccer superpower but its foray into football has so far been a failure. The men’s national team has qualified for just one World Cup, in 2002, and did not score a single goal.

Lippi replaces Gao Hongbo, who resigned after China’s Oct. 11 loss to Uzbekistan.

Marcello Lippi guides Guangzhou Evergrande to Chinese Super League title

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When last we checked in with Italian coach Marcello Lippi, the five-time Serie A-winner was leading Italy to disappointment at South Africa 2010. After success at World Cup 2006 (guiding the Azzurri to their fourth world title), Lippi was lured back to the national team after Italy’s failure at Euro 2008. The result made 2008 seem like a rousing success. Whereas Roberto Donadondi at least managed to guide Italy out of their group in Austria-Switzerland, Lippi failed to win a game in South Africa, the Azzurri finishing last in their group.

After two years out of the game, Lippi made his return, and like any soccer icon looking for one final payday, he did so in China. Credit to him, he chose a club that provided a soft landing, signing on with defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande, a team that was spending as much on its players as they were on its coaches. Guangzhou had made former Fluminense star Dario Conca one of the world’s highest paid players, also signing former Partizan Belgrade attacker Cleo and Paraguayan international Lucas Barrios.

On Saturday, all that investment paid off, the team’s 1-0 win over Liaoning Whowin securing a second straight Chinese Super League title. It’s the first time in the nine-year history of the CSL a team’s retained the title. China international Gao Lin scored in second half stoppage time to push the Tigers to 59 points through 29 games, five clear of Jiangsu Sainty with one match to play.

“This is very special because it is the first time I have won the league overseas and it is good to do it in China which is a great country,” Lippi said after the match.

The title is the eighth major honor in Lippi’s career, a span which includes a European title with Juventus in 1996. The trophy also represents a small piece of redemption for the 64-year-old who saw his team eliminated from Asian Champions League at the beginning of the month by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad.

With Guangzhou in the final of China’s FA Cup, Lippi could soon add another honor to his already vast resume, though a more newsworthy prize may arrive this offseason. Rumors in China have linked Didier Drogba with a move to the champions, the Ivorian’s club (Shanghai Shenhua) reportedly in a salary dispute with its star. Lippi and Guangzhou have denied interest as rumors of Drogba’s potential split of Shanghai have started to calm.