Former Chinese national team coach Bora Milutinovic has told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that China needs to learn from the failure in their pursuit of a berth at the 2022 World Cup finals.
Milutinovic, who led China's only participation in the joint South Korea-Japan World Cup in 2002, was invited as a youth training consultant by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) last week. The Serbian soccer coach says he is excited to get back to Chinese football, where people called him an "old friend."
"I love China. I'm so happy people remember me as a friend of China. And if Chinese football need some help, I'm always ready to help," said Milutinovic.
China has suffered early exits from its last three World Cup qualifiers since 2002. As an adviser to the Qater 2022 World Cup, Milutinovic hopes to see China return to the World Cup four years from now, but says a difficult road lies ahead.
"Qater is doing a great job to prepare for the World Cup, they have incredibly new stadium with the air conditioning. The distance between some stadiums is not far, so after watching a match, fans could take cars to watch another one in the same matchday. I believe it also will be perfect experience for teams, the only problem is you have to earn the qualification and it won't be easy, you must find the right way to make it, specially during the tough time," he remarked.
Milutinovic also cited the case of the Chinese U23 national team, who was eliminated after the group stage at the AFC U23 Championship tournament this week.
"I saw the match China lost to Qatar 2-1 in AFC U23, the Chinese players are talented. I hope they learn from this match what they need to do in the future to come in Qatar 2022...they stil have time to learn. Don't be afraid of failure, the most important thing is, just like I always said, attitude is everything," he added.
Milutinovic believes that China can learn from Qatar's experience as it takes steps to improve its youth training system. The Serbian soccer coach now is a technical adviser for the Aspire Academy, a talent-spotting operation financed by Qatar's government.
"What important is... execution, it's not how many people or registered players you have. Qatar is a small country, they have first-rate coaches and facilities for the young players; they have a clear plan, and stick to it," concluded Milutinovic.