Marcello Lippi confident China can challenge for Asian Cup title after reaching last 16

Manager upbeat but says his side will need to maintain consistency in order to lift trophy

Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - Philippines v China - Group C - Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - January 11, 2019  China coach Marcello Lippi and Philippines coach Sven-Goran Eriksson after the match  REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
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China manager Marcello Lippi said his team can challenge any opponent in the Asian Cup "if we can play the way we played tonight" after his team's 3-0 victory over the Philippines on Friday.

China booked their passage to the last-16 stage of the continental championship along with Jordan and South Korea, whom they play in a top-of-the-table clash in Group C on Wednesday.

Wu Lei scored on either side of half time before substitute Yu Dabao headed a corner 10 minutes from time to guide Lippi’s side to their second win in the competition at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

“I wish we can always play the way we played tonight,” Lippi said. “We played a good match. We had good quality and were aggressive.

“We didn’t give too many chances to our opponent and we created a lot of scoring opportunities.”

“At the start, we were a bit nervous and made many mistakes in the first half. That was because we were on the attack and couldn’t get the final pass into detail.

“But I’m very proud of my players because they put in a lot of determination, aggressiveness and concentration on this match. And two games and two wins is always good for the confidence of the players.”

Lippi said the three points were just as satisfying to him as a manager as they were important to his team's chance of reaching the next round.

“That was more important to me,” the Italian remarked. “I hope we can continue like this because the players get more confidence and when you have that mental attitude you can play against any opponent.

“I wish all my players know that we are strong team and we can play any team in this championship.

“The mental strength of the players is important to take the momentum of the success forward. It doesn’t mean we win every game, but at least it gives the belief they can challenge any opponent.”


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epa07275560 Players of China celebrate after winning the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group C preliminary round match between Philippines and China in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 11 January 2019.  EPA/ALI HAIDER

Meanwhile despite their second defeat on the trot, Lippi’s old rival Sven-Goran Eriksson was all praise for his side who are playing in the Asian Cup for the first time.

“It seems a bit strange but I’m proud of the team even though we lost 3-0,” the Swede said. “I told all the players if someone is going to score against us it’s No 22 [Yu Dabao], No 18 [Gao Lin] or No 7 [Wu Lei]. These are the three guys who can score goals.

“Wu Lei scored twice and 22 scored the other. If you allow Wu Lei space inside or outside the box, in the form and in the shape he is at the moment, he will punish you. And he did. And to be fair, they were great goals - both of them.

“Anyhow, we played well and should have scored a goal when we were three against two in the first half. In total, we have played two games and shown we can play football.

“We haven’t scored, and I’m sorry about that. We lost both games, and I’m more sorry about that. Anyhow, we are not out yet. We have another game and we’ll see what will happen then.”

Eriksson lauded China’s two-goal hero Lei, whom he managed while in charge at Shanghai SIPG.

“He’s been the best Chinese goal scorer in their league," he said. "Last season he was the best scorer in total.

"That’s a great achievement if you think about all the big foreign names playing in the Chinese Super League.”