Ambitious job for ambitious man
Updated: 2013-03-07 07:42
By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)
Guangzhou Evergrande striker Muriqui shoots during the team's Super Cup game against Jiangsu Sainty on Sunday. Guangzhou lost 1-2, which served as a warning as it attempts to defend its Chinese Super League title in the coming season. "We need to improve our mental strength," said coach Marcello Lippi. Wu Jun / For China Daily
Evergrande lost the Super Cup, but that just leaves more time for Lippi's club to work on league play, Qiu Quanlin reports.
For many Guangzhou Evergrande supporters, losing the Chinese Super Cup before the opening of the domestic season was unacceptable.
For Marcello Lippi, head coach of the defending Chinese Super League champion, the loss has forced his players to focus on the coming domestic season.
"The loss was not due to technical problems. It was because my players did not pay much attention to the game," Lippi said.
Evergrande, which claimed both the CSL title and the CFA Cup last season, was defeated 2-1 by CSL runner-up Jiangsu Sainty on Sunday in the Super Cup.
The traditional season opener at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou may not be atop either side's list of priorities, but Lippi said his team needed to be more mentally attuned.
"My players made some mistakes and the team lost control of the game. We need to improve our mental strength in preparation for both the domestic and Asian leagues," Lippi said.
Evergrande has been almost indisputably the best team in China in terms of financial investment and major international names since Guangzhou-based Evergrande Real Estate Group took over in 2010.
"Such mistakes will stop us from reaching our goal to enter the top four of AFC Champions League this season," Lippi said of the Cup performance.
Since his arrival in May of last year, the Italian said the AFC Champions League provided another chance to enhance his coaching legacy.
"The Asian competition is not equally as important as the World Cup final. It is a big challenge for the Chinese team and, for me, a great chance to continue my success on the international stage," said Lippi, who led Italy to the World Cup title in 2006.
Xu Jiayin, the boss of Guangzhou Evergrande, has outlined an ambitious target claiming the Asian continental title this season.
"A great team needs to be mentally and physically strong in both continental and domestic stages," Lippi said.
Guangzhou Evergrande was eliminated by Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad Jeddah in the quarterfinals of last year's AFC Champions League.
A win against Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds on Feb 27 in the opening game of the competition has also inspired the team.
"I believed in my players. They are among the best in China. So I am fully confident I can lead the team to even better results this year," he said.
To boost its chances, Guangzhou has introduced another prominent Brazilian, midfielder Elkeson, who signed a four-year deal in December.
"We are fully confident that with international stars like Elkeson joining the club, we will be able to improve our offensive capabilities and produce much more exciting results for our supporters," the club said on its official website.
The Brazilian, who was transferred at a fee of 5.7 million euros ($7.4 million), joins the South American trio of Muriqui, Lucas Barrios and Dario Conca, who have proved very effective in attack.
Domestically, the side boasts 11 national team players.
In a survey on sina.com, one of China's largest Internet portals, 52 percent of about 8,000 respondents believed Evergrande would successfully defend its league title this season.
However, some soccer insiders claim Guangzhou will face a tougher domestic challenge.
"Many clubs have increased their financial inputs and introduced some competitive overseas and domestic players. So it will not be an easy task for Guangzhou Evergrande to defend the domestic title," said Xie Liang, a veteran soccer commentator with Radio Guangdong.
(China Daily 03/07/2013 page23)