BEIJING (Reuters) - Marcello Lippi’s second attempt to walk away from his role as coach of China inside a year looks like sticking after the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said on Friday they had accepted his resignation.
The 71-year-old Italian, who left the job in January before agreeing to return in May, resigned at a news conference following his team’s 2-1 defeat by Syria in a 2022 World Cup qualifier in Dubai on Thursday.
“The head coach Lippi announced his resignation in the post-match press conference, the CFA accepted it,” the CFA said in a statement, Xinhua news agency reported.
“We are really sorry that the unsatisfactory match results disappoint all Chinese fans. The CFA will reflect seriously to rebuild the team, and try our best in the following World Cup qualifiers.”
Lippi had announced he would be leaving the job at the end of his contract in January after China’s quarter-final exit from the Asian Cup, also in the United Arab Emirates.
He was persuaded to return in May but quit once again on Thursday after the loss left China in second place, five points behind Syria, in Asian qualifying Group A from which only the top team is guaranteed to progress.
“We were able to beat weaker opponents like Maldives and Guam, but when we encountered stronger teams like the Philippines and Syria, we could not play our own football,” Lippi said at the news conference.
“I was well paid and I take the full responsibility. I am now announcing my resignation and I will be no longer be the coach of Team China.”
China have qualified for the World Cup finals just once, in 2002 when they lost all of their matches and failed to score a goal.
Hopes that the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the Chinese game over the last decade might raise the standard of the national team have proved to be a pipedream.
Widely acknowledged as one of the finest tacticians in the game with an honour roll that includes the 2006 World Cup with Italy and Champions League titles on two continents, Lippi oversaw 15 wins and 10 draws in 37 matches over his two spells.
He leaves China in 69th place in the FIFA world rankings, no closer to fulfilling President Xi Jinping’s hope that China would one day host, and then win, the World Cup.
With France Football in 2018 putting Lippi’s pay at 177 million yuan ($25.31 million) a year to coach China there is unlikely to be a shortage of high profile coaches ready to take his place.
($1 = 6.9941 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford