Shanghai: Highly respected Dutchman Guus Hiddink was named on Monday as the new coach of China’s under-21 football team, tasked with leading the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The 71-year-old joins another well-known veteran coach, the Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi, in taking a major role in China’s aggressive push to finally become a force in international football. The 70-year-old Lippi has been in charge of the senior side since 2016 and has overseen marginal improvement, although China still failed to reach the World Cup in Russia and languish at 75th in the FIFA rankings.
Announcing Hiddink as the under-21s boss, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said: “The main task is to go for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “In the days to come, under the leadership of Hiddink and his coaching team, the under-21 boys will pursue their Olympic dreams.” The Dutchman, whose last job was a caretaker spell at Chelsea in 2015-2016, will be paid a little less than four million euros ($4.7 million) a year after tax, Chinese media say. Like Lippi, Hiddink comes with a wealth of experience at club and international level.
In addition to his two interim stints at Chelsea, he also coached Real Madrid, PSV Eindhoven and Valencia, among others. Hiddink is perhaps best known for inspiring co-hosts South Korea to a shock semi-final spot at the 2002 World Cup. China’s under-21s will be expected to make up the bulk of their squad for the Olympics, where the age group is under-23. — AFP