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Chinese Men’s Football Reverts to Crisis Mode as Lippi Quits After Less Than 6 Months in Charge

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Less than 6 months after he took up the post, Marcello Lippi quit as head coach of China’s men’s football team last night after watching his side slump to a 2-1 loss to Syria. The defeat left China 5 points behind their opponents in Asia’s World Cup Qualifying Group A, with only the top team guaranteed progression into the next round of qualification.

As recently as May, Lippi had returned to head up the men’s national set up (having quit the post four months prior) and had talked of “World Cup dreams” for China. Those dreams appear to have turned sour pretty quickly.

“World Cup Dreams”: Marcello Lippi Returns as China’s Men’s Football Team Coach

Lippi’s announcement — which he delivered in the post-game press conference — leaves China’s men’s team searching for yet another new head coach. And it possibly leaves China’s new clutch of foreign-born, naturalized players wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. Managers come and go in football of course, but Lippi was instrumental in recruiting the likes of Brazilian-born forward Elkeson into the Chinese national side.

“My pay is very high, and I take all the blame,” Lippi said after a 75th minute Zhang Linpeng own goal gave Syria victory. “I am quitting as China coach.”

On Chinese social media, there was a typical air of resignation among fans after this latest setback in the mission to qualify for a first World Cup in 20 years.

“The national team never fails to let people down when it comes to letting people down,” wrote one fan on microblogging platform Weibo.

Another commenter suggested that there was a clear path for China’s men’s team to make it to a World Cup: “It only takes five steps for China to enter the World Cup: 1. Work to make FIFA allocate a qualifying place to Antarctica. 2. The Chinese men’s football team gets assigned to the Antarctic qualifying section. 3. Chinese men’s football team and penguins compete for the right to qualify. 4. Manage a draw when we play the penguins away. 5. Play the home leg in [the tropical city of] Sanya, and the overly hot penguins will go straight out of the tournament. According to the current situation, the only difficult part of the five step plan is step four.”

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.