Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – China coach Marcello Lippi revealed a relaxed approach to penalty shoot-outs on Saturday but declared key man Wu Lei fit to face Thailand in their Asian Cup knockout tie.
Although Sunday’s last-16 game could go to penalties, Lippi, 70, said there was little point practising spot-kicks, and that he hadn’t yet decided who would take them.
The old-school approach is at odds with the intricate preparations of the likes of Gareth Southgate, who masterminded England’s penalties win over Colombia at last year’s World Cup.
But the veteran Italian campaigner is no stranger to shoot-outs after his Italy side beat France on penalties in the 2006 World Cup final.
“We haven’t done any particular training on penalty kicks,” Lippi shrugged.
“From my experience, you don’t have to practise penalties because it depends on the moment, it depends on the player, his character, his mood, if he’s strong enough to handle the pressure,” he added.
“You can train every day but in the end training doesn’t really help.”
China last endured an Asian Cup penalty shootout in 2004, when they edged Iran to reach the final — with current captain Zheng Zhi one of the scorers.
“The mood in the team is very good,” said Zheng, 38. “We’re very confident, we want to do our best to reach the quarter-finals so we are highly motivated.”
China’s also hopes received a lift when Lippi described Wu, who missed Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to South Korea, as “ready to go” for Sunday’s game.
Reports from China had suggested a serious shoulder injury for the highly influential forward, who scored a sparkling double in the Group C win over the Philippines.
Wu also scored twice in China’s 2-0 friendly win against Thailand last year in Bangkok, but bitter memories endure of their 5-1 thrashing by the Thais in 2013.
Lippi warned that Thailand would pose a serious threat in Al Ain, noting their revamp since sacking coach Milovan Rajevac following their 4-1 group defeat to India.
“They replaced their head coach after their first game and they changed their tactics and basic formation. But what is very important is that they changed their attitude,” Lippi said.
“They’re very aggressive, very determined, so we have to be careful, we have to be smart. We have to be ready because it’s not going to be an easy match.”
Lippi added that China would pay special attention to the “Thai Messi”, playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin, who he called “very quick, nimble, very aggressive.
“He presses everyone with his team-mates and he has remarkable technical skills. He’s an important player,” Lippi said.
“Hopefully we can play like we did against the Philippines, because it’s important not to give them too much space,” the Italian added.
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