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China’s Lippi confident ahead of World Cup clash

Doha (AFP) – China’s coach Marcello Lippi insisted Monday his team could reach next year’s World Cup finals despite only having a “very small” chance of qualifying. 

He was speaking 24 hours ahead of the match which will determine China’s fate, away to Qatar,

China need to win in Doha and hope that results go their way elsewhere in AFC Group A to guarantee a play-off place for next year’s tournament in Russia. 

“We still have a chance, it’s very small but we still have a chance to achieve this,” he told reporters. 

“Let’s do our best, we have nothing to lose,” said the coach who led Italy to World Cup success in 2006. 

China must hope that three points in Qatar, who have already been eliminated, will be enough to snatch third place from Syria or Uzbekistan. 

Despite a dreadful start which saw China take just one point from the first four games, they are potentially one victory away from continuing qualification for Russia. 

They start the night with nine points, three behind Syria and Uzbekistan, but who both have difficult matches on Tuesday. 

Syria will become one of world football’s biggest stories of the year if they win — but face runaway group leaders Iran in Tehran. 

Remarkably, Iran  are yet to concede a goal in nine third round qualifying matches. 

If Syria — who are forced to play their “home” matches in Malaysia because of the civil war and who have been missing key players throughout qualification — improbably win they then must hope Uzbekistan beat South Korea in Tashkent, but only by a slender margin.

Such a scenario would knock Korea out of second place and secure Syrian qualification. 

Korea, Uzbekistan and Syria all have a chance of finishing second in the group and automatically qualifying for Russia. 

All three could also finish fourth and be eliminated. 

It could prove to be a complicated and tense evening for all teams involved, but not Qatar. 

The 2022 World Cup hosts can only look on jealously as their remote hopes of reaching Russia ended last week losing 3-1 to Syria.

That defeat ensured Qatar would become the first country to host a World Cup having never previously played in a finals since Italy way back in 1934. 

Qatar have endured a dreadful final round of qualification, having more coaches — three — than victories — two. 

Currently in the hot seat is Spaniard Felix Sanchez. 

This is only his second match in charge since replacing Jorge Fossati, but it’s not clear if his tenure will be a long one. 

Asked about his future on Monday, Sanchez responded: “In football there’s no long term.”

Tuesday’s match notably will be the first international played in a venue, Khalifa International Stadium, which will host games in the 2022 World Cup finals.

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