May 24, 2019 / 5:27 AM / 4 months ago

Soccer: Italy's Lippi returns as China coach

Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - South Korea v China - Group C - Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - January 16, 2019 China coach Marcello Lippi REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) - World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi has been reappointed as head coach of China’s national football team, the Chinese Football Association announced on Friday morning.

The 71-year-old Italian, who stepped down from the post following the country’s quarter-final exit from the Asian Cup in January, has returned to guide the team through the qualifying rounds for the 2022 World Cup.

China will be looking to book a place at the World Cup for the first time since 2002, when the country made their one and so far only appearance at the finals.

Lippi, who led his native Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, was previously appointed to the post in November 2016 but, after an initial upswing in fortunes, the former Juventus coach was unable to take China to the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.

He stood down at the end of his contract following a 3-0 loss at the hands of Iran at the Asian Cup and was replaced on an interim basis by Fabio Cannavaro for March’s China Cup matches against Thailand and Uzbekistan.

However, back-to-back defeats in those games were followed by Cannavaro’s decision to not take up the role on a permanent basis, with the former defender choosing to remain at the helm of Guangzhou Evergrande.

Lippi’s first game back in charge will be a friendly match against the Philippines in Guangzhou on June 7 as the Chinese prepare for Asia’s second round of qualifying for Qatar 2022, which kicks off in September.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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