CHINA’S NATIONAL FOOTBALL team squeaked into next year’s Asian Cup finals this week by the narrowest of margins. It was a sobering welcome for new coach Alain Perrin (above), appointed by the China Football Association late last month after a lengthy search for a successor to Jose Antonio Camacho. The former Real Madrid manager was ousted last June in the face of the team’s continuing dismal performance.
Perrin is little known outside of football circles in his native France. He won cups and a league titles there but his greatest reputation is as a stop gap. None of his eleven appointments — he most recently managed Qatar’s Olympic team — have lasted longer than eight months.
That may have been the strongest selling point of his resume. Our man among the muddied oafs says that the CFA wants to appoint to the job Marcello Lippi, the Italian who manages Guangzhou Evergrande. Lippi coached Italy in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which it won. Last November his Guangzhou Evergrande won the AFC Champions League – the first time that a club from China had lifted the trophy.
Lippi’s contract with the club is up at the end of this year. This Bystander is not surprised to read that Perrin’s payoff will be slight if he is dismissed, nothing like the 51.5 million yuan ($8.4 million) Camacho and his coaching staff reportedly walked away with once they were shown the door.
China lies 88th in FIFA’s global country rankings and barely scrapes into Asia’s top 10. Lippi would have a huge challenge ahead of him in getting the national team to qualify in 2018 for what would be only its second World Cup finals. The country’s football is only slowly overcoming the corruption, bribery and match-fixing scandals that plagued it in years not too recently past.
Lippi may have some technological assistance not available to his predecessors. China is putting some of its best researchers to work on video analysis of the national team’s games. Teams (of academics) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Natural Science Foundation, Xian Jiaotong University, and Tsinghua University have been tasked with devising a computer system that can identify the team’s strength’s and weaknesses — though identifying the weaknesses hasn’t been the problem, particularly for China’s opponents on the field.