Marcello Lippi, head coach of China, gives insturctions during the match between China and the Czech Republic at the 2018 China Cup International Football Championship in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, March 26, 2018. (Xinhua/Cao Can)
By any measure, it was not a good run for China's national team at the just-concluded China Cup International Football Tournament: China suffered two defeats, scored one goal and conceded 10 in two games. Even though the results may be a very bitter pill to swallow for most fans, it is important to keep in mind the value that team China can extract from its experience at the tournament.
At the very least, China can learn from their opponents, hone their skills and try to bridge the gap going forward.
As defender Feng Xiaoting said in a pre-match press conference, a defender can improve himself only if he plays against many different types of forwards, and he believes that playing against Gareth Bale will definitely help him improve his defensive skills.
China's first opponent Wales went into the semifinals of the 2016 European Cup, and their new coach Ryan Giggs has brought his best squad here. The chance to play against such a strong opponent has definitely helped the Chinese national team gain more experience and improve on its weakness.
Even though China lost 6-0 to Wales, the performance of some players was still notable. For instance, Yu Hanchao was very close to a goal, but his shot after cutting in the penalty area from left wing was denied by the post.
It is undeniable that China, under the lead of head coach Marcello Lippi, has made tremendous progress, but they still need more games, especially against strong teams, on their way to be more competitive in world football.
In an after-game press conference during the tournament, Lippi apologized to the fans for conceding too many goals. But he explained that the gap between China and the top-class teams is still there, and it's a systematic project to improve the performance, which cannot be achieved within a few years.
"But we have made great progress within Asia so far. We only lost one game in World Cup qualifiers since I took the job, and we were just one point away from going into the next round of games," said Lippi.
The Italian coach was happy to see that some of the young players had taken up responsibility in the team and made progress gradually.
"From my personal point of view, there are a few young players in the team (who are promising), and there are some more players who will join the team soon. Given two to three years, they will make even greater progress, and the team would be better by then," Lippi added.
In the second game against the Czech Republic, China lost 4-1 to their opponents, but the criticism leveled by fans was much less compared with the first game. Lippi also acknowledged the players' effort, saying that they played with the correct attitude and in a correct way.
"There's no need to be sad or angry. We need to accept that the gap is still there. I hope the Chinese fans can have more patience and confidence. My colleagues and I are working hard together, to give more chance to the younger generation of players, and we are able to achieve good results in the future," Lippi said.
The improvement of the national team's skills is one of the major objectives of this event. Launched by the Wanda Group and the Chinese Football Association, the China Cup is an A-grade international event acknowledged by world football governing body FIFA.
"We hope that the China Cup will become a great platform for the Chinese national team to play against top-class teams in the world, and also a great opportunity to promote the development of the sports industry in China," Wanda Group President Wang Jianlin said during an earlier event to promote the tournament.