Marcello Lippi earned his biggest win since taking over as coach of China, 1-0 against South Korea in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday. Lippi, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.
Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the first half, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.
“It is important for the future development of the players,” Lippi said.
China spent much of the second half defending. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.
“China started strongly as we knew they would,” South Korea coach Uli Stielike said.
South Korea is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia but is four points behind Group A leader Iran after six matches. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, is nine off the pace.
“Whether we won or lost today, the chances of qualification don’t look high,” Lippi said. “But we got three points against a team second in the group and we will keep trying our best.”
Only the top two teams from the six-team groups qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.
IRAQ 1, AUSTRALIA 1
Australia failed to win for the fourth straight Group B match.
Matthew Leckie put the Socceroos ahead in Tehran – the temporary home for Iraq because of the security situation in Baghdad – with a first-half header. Ahmed Yaseen got the equalizer from close-range with 14 minutes remaining.
Australia is third in the group, three points behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 0, JAPAN 2
Goals in each half from Yuya Kubo and Yasuyuki Konno gave Japan a comfortable victory in Al Ain to stay second in Group B behind Saudi Arabia on goal difference.
THAILAND 0, SAUDI ARABIA 3
Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Salman Al Muwashar scored in Bangkok, while Tanaboon Kesarat added an own-goal.
Saudi Arabia leads Group B, while Thailand is last.
QATAR 0, IRAN 1
Iran moved four points clear of South Korea in Group A, courtesy of a second-half goal by Mehdi Taremi.
Under Carlos Queiroz, Iran has yet to concede a goal in six games, and could have won by more in Doha.
Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, is last in the group.
SYRIA 1, UZBEKISTAN 0
Despite its civil war, Syria earned a second win in Group A when Omar Kharbin scored a penalty a minute into injury time. He coolly chipped the goalkeeper, who dived left.
Uzbekistan remained in third place, while Syria was a point behind.