(Reuters) - New China coach Li Tie said he only wants players committed to the cause of taking Chinese football forward as he attempts to revive his country’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.
Former Everton midfielder Li was appointed as successor to Marcello Lippi on Friday, six weeks after the Italian quit the role following a defeat to Syria in qualifying for Qatar 2022.
That defeat left China’s chances of progressing to their first World Cup finals in 20 years in jeopardy.
“In the process of recruiting, the first and most important thing is that we want to find people who want to play soccer for our nation, who have the spirit of selfless dedication, who want to sacrifice everything for the national team,” said Li at his official unveiling on Sunday.
“Second, we want to find players who can shoulder the pressure of the national team.”
China’s chances of reaching the World Cup for the first time since their debut appearance in 2002 are slim, with Li’s team in second place in Group A in the second phase of Asia’s qualifying campaign.
Only the winner of the each of the eight groups is guaranteed to advance to the next round, with slots also being allocated to the four best runners-up. Asia has four direct spots in the finals and one inter-confederation playoff slot.
China are eight points adrift of Syria having played one game fewer and next face the Maldives in late March in what will be Li’s first competitive match in charge.
The 42-year-old, however, is no stranger to the national team set-up.
Li represented China 92 times as a player, including at the 2002 World Cup finals, and also served as assistant to Lippi both during his time with the national team and at Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande.
“I have learnt a lot from him,” Li said of the 2006 World Cup-winning coach.
“I think one of the important points is his yearning to win, which is beyond that of many other coaches which I have experienced.”
Li is only the second Chinese coach to fill the post on a full-time basis since Spain’s Jose Antonio Camacho was appointed in 2011.
Yet the former midfielder - who quit his role as head coach at Wuhan Zall to take the job - stressed nationality had little bearing on a coach’s ability.
“I don’t want to talk about the differences between Chinese coaches and foreign coaches,” he said.
“I think in terms of soccer, there’s only one judgement which is whether you can do it or not.
“If you can do it, you do it. If you cannot, leave.
“No matter how awesome you are as a coach, there’s always success and failure.”
Writing by Michael Church, Editing by Toby Davis