KUNMING: Marcello Lippi’s dreams of taking China to the next World Cup received a reality check yesterday, while Asian champions Australia were made to sweat in a near-nightmare in Bangkok. China’s 0-0 draw with Qatar did nothing to boost their dwindling hopes of reaching Russia 2018, even after World Cup-winning coach Lippi was appointed last month. Mile Jedinak scored twice from the spot as Australia came from behind to draw 2-2 with Thailand, dropping out of Group B’s automatic qualifying places as a result.
Elsewhere Japan eased the pressure on coach Vahid Halilhodzic with a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia, while South Korea needed Koo Ja-Cheol’s late winner to overcome Uzbekistan 2-1. Lippi arrived in China with great fanfare-and reportedly, a huge pay cheque-but he was unable to start with a win which would have lifted them off the bottom of Group A.
The Italian admits ambitious China need a “miracle” to reach Russia, which would be only their second World Cup after their sole appearance ended pointless and goalless in 2002. China enjoyed more chances but they were unable to find the breakthrough against 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, who remain second from bottom and also unlikely to qualify for 2018. In Bangkok, Teerasil Dangda’s double left Australia on the brink of a shock defeat, before Socceroos captain Jedinak scored his second penalty of the night on 65 minutes. The draw demoted Australia from second to provisional third in their group, a point behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, with only the top two winning automatic qualification for Russia.
‘WE HAD TO STAY STRONG’
“I think to come away with less than three points here is a real shame, a big disappointment,” said Aston Villa’s Jedinak. “We have to move forward, we need to assess what’s gone wrong here and try to rectify it quickly.” — AFP