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New China coach Lippi looks to restore confidence

Marcello Lippi (L) and Cai Zhenhua, president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), pose for a photo as Marcello Lippi is given China's national team coach shirt at a news conference in Beijing, China October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Marcello Lippi (L) and Cai Zhenhua, president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), pose for a photo as Marcello Lippi is given China's national team coach shirt at a news conference in Beijing, China October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

By Natalie Thomas

BEIJING (Reuters) - Marcello Lippi said his first priority as China coach is to restore some confidence to his players as he looks to breathe some life into their faltering campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The 68-year-old, who guided Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, was named China coach last weekend and has two weeks to get his side ready for their next qualifier against Qatar in Kunming on Nov. 15.

Lippi is China's third coach this year and takes over with the country bottom of their six-team, third round Asian qualifying group with one draw and three defeats after four of their 10 scheduled matches.

"We need to play one match at a time, we need to face Qatar next month and we hope that through this match the members of the national team can get some confidence and self-esteem back," he told a news conference on Friday.

"I think if we take it one match at a time, there might be some change in the situation and our chances will get better and better.

"We hope the results are good, but if they aren't as good as we hope then we will turn our attention to the next Asian Cup."

Lippi's contract will run initially through the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, Chinese Football Association general secretary Zhang Jian told reporters.

"Once the 2019 Asian Cup is over, we will look at the situation and the desires and conditions of Mr Lippi and the CFA before starting the next round of discussions," he added.

The top two from their group qualify directly for the Russia finals in 2018 with the third-placed side offered a potential passage to the tournament via two playoffs.

"In terms of the 2018 World Cup playoffs the current state of the Chinese team at the moment is worrying, but it hasn't got to the point where it's impossible," Lippi said.

"I watched the four qualifiers the Chinese team has played and from what I've seen, it's a question of the balance of the side and not that any team has completely overwhelmed them."

Lippi said he would be calling on a core of players from Guangzhou Evergrande, the club he led to three Chinese Super League titles and an Asian Champions League triumph.

"This choice was made based on the consideration that these team members have spent a long time together competing so they are quite familiar with each other and they have a certain vision for victory," he said.

"This is especially important for the first game when we need to be safe and be conservative."

(Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Singapore, editing by Simon Cambers)

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