China replaces coach amid poor World Cup qualifying campaign

BEIJING (AP) — China’s national men’s soccer team has replaced Li Tie as head coach with the country struggling to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

The Chinese Football Association said Friday that Li had resigned and was being replaced by fellow former national team player Li Xiaopeng.

China is fifth in a six-team World Cup qualifying group with five points from six games. Only the top two teams qualify automatically for next year’s tournament in Qatar and there are four matches left to play.

China has appeared in just one World Cup in its history and Li had been facing growing calls to stand down after a disappointing qualifying campaign, although the team managed a 1-1 draw against Australia last month.

Li replaced Marcello Lippi, one of several foreign coaches hired by China recently, including Bora Milutinovic, who led China to the 2002 World Cup in which both Li Tie and Li Xiaopeng played.

Despite calls from president and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping for China to become a football superpower, the men’s team currently ranks 74th in the world.

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