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China look to seal knockout stage berth
January 11, 2019
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Abu Dhabi: Friendship will take a backseat when Marcello Lippi and Sven-Goran Eriksson lock horns in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Friday.

China are on a better footing, coming from behind to defeat Kyrgyztan 2-1 on Matchday One while The Azkals were unfortunate to suffer a 1-0 defeat after a plucky display against South Korea.

“I respect him and he is a good friend but tomorrow at 5.30pm, our friendship will have to take a backseat for a while. I wish him well but not for tomorrow,” said Eriksson, who has been tasked by the Philippines to ensure their maiden appearance in the AFC Asian Cup Finals is one to remember.

China will be tough opponents, especially as the last meeting between the two sides ended in an 8-1 win for the two-time AFC Asian Cup runners-up. “I hope we don’t lose 8-1 this time as that would be a disaster. We won’t lose 8-1 because I am sure that we will give China a very good fight.

“The players are very excited about the match, especially after our performance against South Korea. This is a chance for them to prove themselves again. This generation of players have so much promise and I am sure that in 10 years, football will enjoy more importance in the Philippines,” added Eriksson.

The former England manager’s stint ends after the AFC Asian Cup and Eriksson said he has enjoyed his tenure.

“It is a short stint but I liked the challenge. The players have been great and we have a job to do and we will do it.” Having coached Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League, Eriksson has insight on the China team but the Swede said it won’t be much of an advantage.

“Yes, I know Chinese football and I know three of the players in the squad but in today’s game, there are no secrets. Lippi will know about us and we will know about China.”

Lippi, who is also set to leave at the end of the AFC Asian Cup, said he is looking forward to facing an Eriksson-led Philippines.

“We have known each other since I was with Juventus and it will be great to face another team led by him. It will be a challenge but I believe in my team and we are confident of getting the job done. Three more points will seal our place in the knockout stage and the players are determined to improve on their performance against Kyrgyztan.”

Good news for China is that striker Wu Lei is likely to shrug off the injury he is nursing as Lippi urged his players to play with the intensity they showed in the second half against Kyrgyztan.

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