Marcello Lippi: CSL's foreign strikers hurting China national team
Marcello Lippi has blamed Chinese Super League clubs' obsession with signing foreign strikers for the China national team's struggles in front of goal during qualifying for next year's World Cup finals in Russia.
China's attempt to qualify for their first World Cup since making their debut appearance in the competition in 2002 could come to an end on Thursday evening when Lippi's team take on Uzbekistan.
The Chinese must win the game in Wuhan before also picking up all three points against Qatar in Doha on Sept. 5 to have any hope of progressing to the playoffs for a place in next year's finals.
China sit at the bottom of the standings in Group A of Asia's qualifying tournament and, while Lippi believes the team have improved, he remains concerned about his team's attack.
"My team is progressing in two aspects: mentally and organisationally," the World Cup-winning former Italy boss told Titan Sports.
"We play to win, no matter if we're at home or away, but we have one serious problem and it's very, very serious: I have no forward. I have no centre-forward at all.
"I have to move players from other positions to be a centre-forward. The reason is simple too: clubs can play three foreign players and they like buying forwards.
"We have good choices in other positions but it is a big problem with the forwards."
Lippi has tried a number of options in attack, including the inexperienced Zhang Yuning, but China have scored just five times in eight games and have amassed only six points so far.
Despite China's disappointing showing in qualifying for the World Cup, Lippi has been assured he will remain in position until the finals of the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
China have already qualified for the competition and Lippi is likely to use the tournament to introduce a host of new players to the international scene, while he says he has overseen an improvement in the current team since taking over in October last year.
"The CFA said the target was not the World Cup but to help a young team improve and to get prepared for the Asian Cup," he said.
"China has been very good to me and I have won titles here, so I took the invitation to pay back the country. It was not easy -- the national team only had one point from their first four games, and not a single win at all.
"The first game I took charge of was against Qatar and it was 0-0. That game should have ended 3-0. After that we made history against South Korea. In the game against Syria, we controlled the whole match but they equalised to make it 2-2 in the 93rd minute.
"The only loss we have had was in our game away to Iran. It was 1-0 and they are the strongest team in Asia."
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch