Marcello Lippi is ready to trust in young talent to breathe new life into China's national team.
Speaking to Chinese news site China Daily, the Italian coach revealed that after failing to reach the World Cup in Russia, the team’s attentions have now turned to the 2019 Asian Cup finals in the United Arab Emirates.
"My focus won't be anywhere else but here in China to continue developing a national team strong enough for the Asian Cup," the 70-year-old told China Daily on Monday at the launch of a youth training programme in Beijing.
"I know we still have room to improve, but we shall fear no one in Asia no matter who we play at the tournament, as long as we put in our best effort."
"Veterans must be warm-blooded" – Lippi
The former Inter Milan, Juventus and Italy head coach suggested the blame for China’s lowly international standing lay with veterans who don’t care for national pride.
"Veterans are important for a team but only when they prove to me that they are still warm-blooded to fight for their country would I consider calling them up for the Asian Cup," said Lippi.
Due to this, the Italian has entrusted his assistant, Massimiliano Maddaloni, coach of China’s Under-23s, with identifying promising youngsters for the senior squad.
Two 17-year-old soccer players - Li Jiawei and Huang Zihao from #Jiangsu Province- were recommended to Italy for training by Marcello Lippi, manager of the Chinese national team, as the first batch of a project to cultivate more Chinese soccer rising stars, on Monday. pic.twitter.com/4uhiappUAI— Jiangsu China (@loveJiangsu) 9 May 2018
Lippi's future to be decided in the UAE
In preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup, China will play friendly matches against Jordan at home on 26 May and away to Thailand on 2 June, before hosting Qatar in September.
Five more matches are yet to be confirmed.
At the 2019 Asian Cup, China will share Group C with South Korea, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines.
"I am happy with the draw as I believe we have a good chance of advancing to the next stage," he said. "Korea will be the toughest opponent, but we are confident of beating them again."
A good performance in the UAE could be the Italian’s last chance to impress on his current three-year contract.
Many observers believe that results in the 2019 competition could decide his future with the Chinese national side.