BEIJING (Reuters) – World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi has been named as coach of China’s national team, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said on its website on Saturday.
The Italian replaced Gao Hongbo, who resigned this month after a 2-0 defeat in Uzbekistan dealt a further blow to the country’s slim hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
“The Chinese Football Association decided to appoint Mr. Lippi as coach of China’s men’s national team following amicable negotiations,” read a short statement on the website.
No details of the contract were revealed but Lippi will be introduced to the media at a news conference in Beijing on Friday.
The 68-year-old, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, enjoyed a successful three-year spell with Guangzhou Evergrande, winning the Chinese League title three times and the Asian Champions League in 2013.
Lippi had been linked with a return to Guangzhou but the Chinese champions cleared the way for him to take the national team job when the club announced on Saturday they had agreed to terminate a contract signed early last month.
He will be China’s third coach this year after Gao and Frenchman Alain Perrin, who was sacked in January, as the CFA bids to fulfill the ambition of President Xi Jinping for the country to qualify for the World Cup finals for a second time.
Lippi’s first match in charge will be the World Cup qualifier against Qatar in Kunming on Nov. 15 but he will have his work cut out to resurrect their campaign.
The loss to Uzbekistan left China bottom of the six-team Asian Group A with one draw and three defeats after four of 10 matches in the round.
The top two qualify directly for Russia in 2018 with the third-placed side offered a passage to the finals via two playoffs.
At Evergrande, Lippi was handed a huge budget to bring in big-name European and Brazilian players, an option clearly not open to him with the national team.
Finding players to bolster China’s goal tally – they have scored just two in their first four matches of this round of qualifying – will be a major challenge.
Of the top 13 goalscorers in the Chinese Super League going into this weekend’s round of matches, only one – Shanghai SIPG’s Wu Lei – was Chinese.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk, additional writing by Nick Mulvenney)