It’s time to say “ciao”.
After China’s men’s soccer team lost a World Cup qualifying match to Syria 2-1, Marcello Lippi announced his resignation as head coach of the national squad.
The defeat was painful. China now sits second in Asia Qualifying Group A with seven points in four games. That’s five points behind group leader Syria. With only eight group winners and the four highest-scoring runners-up progressing to the next round of the Asian qualification process, the Chinese side is now in real danger of missing out on yet another tournament.
“A team should try its best to execute their coach’s directions,” the 71-year-old Italian said at a brief post-match news conference. “We won over weak teams like the Maldives and Guam, but we got a draw against a team that was a little stronger like the Philippines. Today Syria was better than us. I’m earning a very high salary. I take the full responsibility. I will resign.”
This is not the first time Lippi has stepped aside after a loss. In January, he quit after a disappointing Asian Cup campaign concluded in a 3-0 quarterfinal exit to Iran. The legendary coach, who is known for leading Italy to its 2006 World Cup victory, returned in May, however, with the aim of taking China to the tournament.
As it turned out, his second spell didn’t last long. Fans online greeted the team’s latest defeat with a mixture of anger and despair. Some criticized Lippi for failing to take responsibility when results didn’t go China’s way. But there has also been some sympathy for Lippi, with an acceptance that he had a squad of limited ability. “What’s the value of the squad now? What’s the value of the coach that we hired by paying him generously?” renowned sports commentator Han Qiaosheng wrote on Sina Weibo. “Maybe Lippi himself cannot answer this question, so the only thing he can do is to resign.”
There was a time when we would attribute the loss to multiple factors. “But when we hired a World Cup champion coach, reformed the management system, provided the best backup support and even started a seemingly impossible naturalization process, the result still failed us,” Xinhua News Agency noted.
Compared to China’s women’s soccer team and the country’s other medal-winning programs, the men’s soccer team is a perennial underperformer. In such a situation, saying goodbye is shattering for Lippi, but returns can also bring heartbreak.