Lippi tells ‘lucky’ China to keep believing

Shanghai: Marcello Lippi said his China side must improve and were lucky to snatch a late 1-0 home win over Uzbekistan to keep alive their slender World Cup hopes.
A Gao Lin penalty with six minutes left at an energised Wuhan Sports Centre Stadium ensures that China’s wafer-thin chances of making Russia 2018 will go down to the final game on Tuesday at Qatar.
China will need to win in Doha and rely on other results going their way if they are to snatch an unlikely third place in Group A and with it a play-off spot.
“I always tell my players: When there is still a theoretical chance, we have no reason to give up. We should make every effort to achieve it,” Lippi, who masterminded Italy to a World Cup triumph in 2006, was quoted as saying by the state Xinhua news agency.
“From a professional view I admit that luck was on our side tonight. But the match also shows that the team still has a lot to do to improve,” added the Italian, tasked with revamping the fortunes of the perennially underachieving Chinese national team.
China went into the clash with Uzbekistan — who are still in the running for a first World Cup finals appearance — knowing only a win would do.
The hosts created several chances and were the better side but appeared to run out of ideas as the clock ticked down, only for defender Feng Xiaoting to win a soft penalty with just a few minutes left.
The 31-year-old forward Gao had the hopes of China’s 1.3 billion population resting on his shoulders. — AFP