(Reuters) - Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has heaped praise on China counterpart Marcello Lippi ahead of their vital World Cup qualifier next week, the Portuguese saying the man who led Italy to the global title in 2006 is good for Asian football.
Lippi took over as China coach to revive their flagging fortunes last October and after drawing his first game in charge, the 68-year-old Italian led his side to a 1-0 home win over South Korea on Thursday to keep the side’s hopes alive.
The win lifted China on to five points, still four adrift of the third-place playoff spot with four games remaining, and table-topping Iran will not be taking them lightly in Tehran on Tuesday despite an unbeaten start to the final group campaign.
“Lippi has been everywhere in football and he will make China a stronger and more intelligent team,” Queiroz, whose side have yet to concede a goal in six matches and top the standings on 14 points, told the South China Morning Post.
“We know that China will be well-organised and will be compact in defence. We have to be patient to try and break them down but also be careful of their counter-attacking.”
After leaving Italy in 2010, Lippi had a successful two-and-half-year spell in charge of Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande before he was coaxed out of retirement last year and Queiroz is delighted to see the Italian back in the dugout.
“It is good for Asian football that Lippi is here,” the former Real Madrid coach added.
”The way world football and the schedule of international games is organised, it is difficult for Asian teams to compete with the traditional strong nations in Europe and South America but it helps to have some of the best coaches working here.
“They can help raise the level and make Asia more competitive.”
Queiroz, who has been in charge of Iran for six years and led Team Melli to the 2014 World Cup, believes Iran will continue to improve and remains proud of his achievements so far.
“Since I have been here we have more players in Europe than ever before,” Queiroz said. “We have also been the number one Asian team for four years in the FIFA rankings.”
The top two sides in Asian Group A will advance to the finals in Russia next year while the third-place finishers qualify for a series of playoffs.
Reporting by John O'Brien in Singapore; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly