Lippi tells lightweight China 'impossible may happen'

AFP
China is bottom of its qualifying group with just one victory in 8 games and must win both its remaining matches if it is to stand any chance of making it to Russia 2018.
AFP
Imaginechina

Marcello Lippi gestures during a Chinese national team training session in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, on August 27.

Marcello Lippi says he is desperately short of options up front but China's veteran Italian coach has told his players not to give up hope of reaching next year's World Cup.

China is bottom of its qualifying group with just one victory in eight games and must win both its remaining matches if it is to stand any chance of making it to Russia 2018, starting at home to Uzbekistan on Thursday.

The 69-year-old Lippi, who masterminded Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph, says his much-derided side can upset the odds.

"We must keep on improving, constantly upping our game and sometimes the impossible may happen," he told Titan Sports weekly ahead of the must-win game in Wuhan, central Hubel Province.

"It's a fact that the Chinese team has improved. In the past the team was very despondent, never winning and the youth teams weren't producing good players.

"We are improving in terms of mentality and organization."

Lippi has been at the helm for 10 months and will reportedly keep his job even if China fails to qualify for Russia — it was all but out of the reckoning for 2018 when he arrived.

His high-profile appointment is part of a Chinese government effort to markedly improve the fortunes of a country ranked a lowly 77th in the FIFA rankings and an embarrassment to the nation.

Clubs in the domestic Chinese Super League have spent huge sums to bring in overseas players, particularly strikers such as Hulk at Shanghai SIPG, which Lippi says has had a knock-on effect.

"We have a very severe problem, we don't have strikers," he said.

"On paper I don't even have one striker, I have to make players from other positions play striker.

"The reason is very simple: clubs like to buy foreign strikers. Our players in other positions are quite good, but our line of strikers is a real problem."

China is going to need goals — and other results to go its way — if it is to propel itself off the bottom of its qualifying group and into third place and a playoff spot.

Its final group match is in Qatar on September 5.

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