SPORTS Troubled China hand reins to ex-Everton player Li Tie


Troubled China hand reins to ex-Everton player Li Tie


20:57, January 02, 2020

Then coach of the Chinese national men's football selection team Li Tie (center) takes part in a training session in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province on November 6. (Photo: cnsphoto)

Former Everton midfielder Li Tie was named as coach of China's men's football team on Thursday, tasked with reviving their World Cup qualifying campaign after Marcello Lippi's abrupt departure.

The Chinese Football Association said Li, who played in China's only World Cup appearance in 2002, is an "outstanding representative of Chinese football players" and was appointed after an open process.

Li is already familiar with the national coaching set-up having been in temporary charge during the East Asian championships in South Korea last month.

The 42-year-old was the manager of Chinese Super League club Wuhan Zall before his appointment.

"It is believed that under the leadership of the coach, the Chinese national men's football team will work hard to train and prepare ­scientifically with a high sense of mission and honour," the Chinese Football Association said in a statement.

Li's permanent appointment follows a turbulent year for Chinese football when Lippi's resignation put another dent in the nation's hopes of being a superpower in the sport of football.

The Italian 2006 World Cup-­winning coach stormed out of the role in November after a 2-1 defeat to Syria left China with seven points from four games in their qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup in ­Qatar.

The former Juventus and Italy boss reportedly earned 180 million yuan ($25 million) per year, making him one of the best-paid coaches in the world.

Li is the first Chinese coach to take charge of the national team since 2016, when Gao Hongbo replaced Frenchman Alain Perrin, only to resign eight months later.

The Xinhua News Agency said he was among three Chinese managers who were interviewed for the job, a change of strategy after looking to foreign coaches for much of the past decade.

"We believe that Li can bring about the change we want, as he admires high pressing and a compact tactical style," CFA Secretary-General Liu Yi told Xinhua.

"More importantly, Li showed a strong desire to win during his interview, and he will definitely have a better understanding of the players' psychological changes than a foreign coach would," Liu said.

Despite heavily investing in the sport, recruiting European and South American coaches and players in its domestic league, and building up football academies, China languish 76th in the FIFA world rankings.

They exited the 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea without a point or scoring a goal ­under the direction of Serbia's Bora Milutinovic.

Lippi, 71, initially quit in January after taking China to the Asian Cup quarterfinals, where they lost 3-0 to Iran, and his compatriot Fabio Cannavaro took over as caretaker.

But Cannavaro, also coach of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande, lost both of his two matches in charge before Lippi returned in May.

Li takes over after China tried to add talent to their squad by naturalizing foreign players, such as the Brazilian forward Elkeson.

Li joined Everton in 2002, playing 34 Premier League games over four seasons before joining Sheffield United.

In 2012, he joined Lippi as the Italian's assistant coach at Guangzhou Evergrande, who went on to win the Asian Champions League.

He will lead China's training camp on Sunday in the southern city of Guangzhou ahead of their next World Cup qualifier against the Maldives on March 26.

They sit second in the Asian qualifiers' Group A, eight points behind Syria.

The CFA backed Li to "strive to build a national team that is 'good at fighting and has a good style of work,' and play every game well."

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