China 'must play a patient game'

Updated 2018-02-22 16:25:03 China Daily

Former Guangzhou Evergrande youth coach Marco Pezzaiuoli is urging China to be patient in its bid for success on the international stage.

Since 2015, the country has been rolling out a government-backed reform plan to transform the national team into a soccer superpower by 2050.

A fifth successive failed World Cup qualification attempt last year showed just how far China has to go to reach that goal, and Pezzaiuoli is cautioning fans not to expect instant results.

"We talk about one to two generations until China can reach a level to compete successfully at a World Cup," he told German sports magazine Kicker.

"Don't forget that it took decades to develop European soccer to today's level."

The Mannheim-born coach, who helmed Germany's Under-17s to the 2009 European championship title, said as many Chinese players as possible should play in foreign leagues, believing the domestic game will benefit from their experience.

China has targeted primary schools as a way of invigorating the grassroots game, and Pezzaiuoli urged the world's most populous nation to continue to develop its infrastructure and "allow more street soccer".

He also reckons that China still suffers from a lack of competition at the grassroots level.

"Eight games in a two-day rhythm is a challenge for coaches and players," he said.

Pezzaiuoli urged clubs and regional governing bodies to seek further improvement regarding collaboration, citing the efforts of his former club and 2015 AFC Champions League winner Evergrande to set up an international youth tournament shortly.

Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt will most likely participate, he revealed.

Former Hoffenheim boss Pezzaiuoli, who worked with Evergrande from 2014-17, said he is amazed by the widespread passion and enthusiasm for sport in China.

"Young people, old people, everyone is involved in sports," the 49-year-old said.

"You take a look out of the window at five o'clock in the morning and you will be surprised."

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