China at crossroads again as Lippi quits

SHANGHAI (AFP) – China are searching for a third coach this year after the country’s football association accepted Marcello Lippi’s resignation following the damaging loss to Syria in World Cup qualifying.

A clearly infuriated Lippi, the 71-year-old Italian World Cup winner, made a brief but angry appearance in front of the media after the 2-1 defeat on Thursday in Dubai.

“My pay is very high and I take all the blame. I am quitting as China coach,” the Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

“We could beat weaker opponents like Maldives and Guam, but when we encountered stronger teams like the Philippines and Syria, we could not play our own football.”

Lippi then abruptly left the press conference. Hours later, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said in a statement that it had accepted Lippi’s decision.

Marcello Lippi. PHOTO: AFP

“We are really sorry that the unsatisfactory results disappoint all Chinese fans,” the CFA said.

“The CFA will seriously reflect, rebuild the team, and try our best in the following World Cup qualifiers.”

Syria’s victory left them comfortably atop Group A in qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

China are five points behind in second, only above the Philippines on goal difference, putting their World Cup hopes in peril.

It has been a turbulent year for Chinese football and Lippi’s resignation is a dent to the government’s hopes of making the country a superpower in the sport.