China's striker crisis: Influx of overseas forwards is hurting game, says Lippi

Sports | 9 Jan 2019

Marcello Lippi says an influx of foreign forwards has decimated China's striking stocks and could damage their Asian Cup campaign after an unconvincing start in the United Arab Emirates.

China's threadbare options up front were underlined when makeshift forward Yu Dabao grabbed the winner in the 2-1 win over debutants Kyrgyzstan, which also left key attacker Wu Lei nursing a suspected collarbone injury.

Yu played as a defender last season for Beijing Guoan and Lippi said the overseas forwards flooding the Chinese Super League have squeezed out homegrown players.

"This shows our situation in China. Nearly all the foreign players are forwards," said Lippi, who led his native Italy to the 2006 World Cup title. "It means for our attack, I have to pick a player who spent the season in central defense."

China's attacking play was far from convincing against Kyrgyzstan, who led at half-time and should have grabbed at least a draw if not for a bungling own goal by their goalkeeper.

But Lippi's team had problems in defense too as they were continually picked apart by an inventive Kyrgyzstan, who had chances for a late equalizer.

The news did not improve for China as the influential Wu, reportedly linked with English Premier League outfit Wolves last year, was left in doubt for the Group C clash against the Philippines on Friday.

Brazilians Alexandre Pato, Hulk and Oscar are among the well-paid foreign attacking players in the mainland, where football authorities have tried to clamp down on expensive new arrivals by imposing a heavy tax on transfer fees and a salary cap.

However, Lippi was also a beneficiary of the trend during his time at Guangzhou Evergrande, when the likes of Dario Conca, Elkeson and Muriqui inspired the club to four league titles and the 2013 Asian Champions League crown.

China scored just five goals in their six friendlies since September and Lippi revealed he gave his players a half-time talking-to after a typically slow start against Kyrgyzstan. "In the 2 1/2 years I've been the national team coach, it's happened many times that we've played a negative first half," he said. "I start to get angry and push my players, and then I get the reaction that I wanted ... It seems like it's a characteristic of Chinese players."

Next up for China are the Philippines, who impressed in a 1-0 defeat to title favorites South Korea.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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