Why Lippi for China soccer?

Guangzhou (China), Oct 23 (IANS) Italian Marcello Lippi was named the Chinese football team head coach on Saturday, kicking off his second stint in China.

But why Lippi? Could the World Cup-winning coach save China’s dying World Cup hopes? What more will he bring to Chinese soccer?

Winning experience: The 68-year-old Lippi, one of the most successful coaches in the world, led Juventus to European Champions League title in 1996 and guided Italy to win the FIFA World Cup in 2006, reports Xinhua.

Moreover, during his reign from 2012-2014, Lippi led Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande to Asian Champions League crown — China’s first-ever continental trophy.

“Lippi is the master for tactics, he always makes right decisions on the pitch, the media never criticized his game plans when he was the coach of Evergrande,” said Bai Guohua, sports writer of China’s professional newspaper Football.

Bora Milutinovic had guided the Chinese national team to the World Cup finals in 2002, which was the only appearance in the international football centrestage for the world’s most populous country.

At the national team level, Chinese football has been far from successful for almost one and a half decades.

“Chinese football never lacks the experience of failure, but the successful experience is too scarce,” said Xu Jiayin, the owner of Guangzhou Evergrande club, which has been famous among the Chinese fans.

Familiarity: For the Chinese national team, the hope of making the 2018 Russia World Cup had gone almost out of reach after they suffered a four-game winless run in the final stage of qualifiers in Asian Zone.

Many believe Lippi is the only coach who can rejuvenate the Chinese team in such a short time.

“The Chinese team is on the verge of elimination, the hope is slim but the team should make every possible effort,” said Feng Zhen, a sports writer of newspaper Nanfang Daily.

Although the Italian quit his job in Evergrande in 2015, Lippi is familiar with the squad of the current Chinese national team, as more than half of them including playmaker Zheng Zhi, defenders Feng Xiaoting and Zhang Linpeng were under him at Evergrande between 2012-2014.

He will make his Chinese national team coach debut in the fifth game of the Asian Zone qualifiers against Qatar at home on November 15.

More than coach: Some experts, however, believe Lippi’s arrival could bring a more far-reaching significance for the Chinese soccer beyond the national team level.

In February 2015, the Chinese government implemented a soccer reform plan which encourages private sector investment and sets a long-term goal of making the country a top-tier soccer power.

Lippi, as a world famous soccer figure, could play an important role far beyond his coaching job in the plan.

“Lippi’s arrival will immediately promote the brand of the Chinese soccer in the international level,” said Tan Jianxiang, professor of South China Normal University.

“Lippi, with his international fame, could become an ambassador of Chinese soccer. We could benefit much more than merely seeing him as a coach,” he added.