Ambitious Ivankovic aims for World Cup finals



Newly appointed head coach for Team China Branko Ivankovic is aiming at steering Team China to the soccer World Cup finals, and the 70-year-old Croatian hopes the squad can regain confidence to fulfill the goal.

“Our first goal is to get into the next round of qualification, but our ultimate goal is to build a new national team that is strong enough to get into the World Cup finals,” Ivankovic said on Friday at his first media conference as head coach in Tianjin.

“China has been investing heavily in soccer, but the results we have are not satisfying. Asian soccer is progressing fast, but I believe the Chinese team can still have its place in Asia. And the Chinese players are making some progress. I have been observing the squad for a while, and I’m sure they can produce better results.”

Being appointed as the new Team China head coach in late February, Ivankovic’s first task is to lead Team China to victories at back-to-back qualifier matches against Singapore on March 21 and 26. The national team will fly to Singapore for the first qualifier, before heading to Tianjin for a home game.

The length of Ivankovic’s tenure will be dependent on results, with a clause in his contract reportedly allowing the CFA to terminate the deal if the team suffers an early exit in qualification.

The coaching team for the upcoming qualifiers will be a combination of an Ivankovic selection and Chinese coaches.

“I’m very proud to become the head coach of Team China. I believe with the joint efforts of everyone, we can bring better performance and results, which is also the hope of fans,” said Ivankovic.

“The position means great responsibility and challenges to me. With the help of the entire coaching team I hope to meet the expectations of all.”

Team China opened the second round of its World Cup qualifying campaign in November with a 2-1 win over Thailand before losing 3-0 to South Korea, in a match it was not expected to pick up any points in. China currently ranks third in Group C.

“The preparation time for us is very limited. And the Chinese Super League also just started. The players are not at their peaks. We need to have a training camp and adjust our players to their peak conditions,” the coach added.