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Marcello Lippi fails to create miracle as China are held 0-0 by Qatar to leave World Cup hopes in tatters

Marcello Lippi’s hopes of leading China to the next World Cup received a serious blow when they were held 0-0 by Qatar in Kunming on Tuesday.

Lippi is tasked with setting China on the road to football greatness but there was no dream start for the Italian in his first game in charge.

Instead China remain rooted to the foot of group A with two points from five games and scant hopes of reaching Russia 2018 even with Lippi, who coached Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

A packed Kunming crowd came with high expectations but Qatar’s Andres Quintana caused early panic before his attempt from a corner went wide.

Jiang Zhipeng’s long-range free kick nearly caught Qatari goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb napping before Wu Lei also drove a fierce shot narrowly off-target.

China continued to carve out chances after the break and Qatar had Al Sheeb’s instinctive save to thank when he tipped Wu Xi’s diving header over the bar.

Subsitute Cao Yunding hit the side netting but China were unable to craft the breakthrough against 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, who stay second from bottom on five points.

Jorge Fossati’s men had the first real opportunity of the game after being awarded a corner kick with five minutes on the clock.

The set piece delivery inititally looked to be mishit and appeared to be swinging out of the box, but a late-arriving Ibrahim Majid surprised the defence with a firm header back in.

The ball found Sebastian Soria right in front of the goal, but his backheel attempt was just wide of the goal post as the startled China defenders stood and watched.

Up the other end, Jiang’s hard free kick six minutes later was on target as it found its way through the Qatari wall, but it bounced off Al-Sheeb’s gloves and out for a corner kick.

The hosts were racking up the chances now but were not having much luck as Wu Lei ran on to a ball from Jiang, almost slipping while cutting past his marker before hitting the far post with his shot.

Unfortunately, the flag had gone up due to Zhang Yuning straying offside in the build up to Wu Lei’s shot on goal.

Jiang and Zhang then had further chances for China but did not manage to unduly trouble Al-Sheeb before Mohamed Musa tested Yan Junling with a strike through a sea of legs just before the half that the goalkeeper was equal too.

The second half saw much of the same as Wu Xi met a Chinese corner kick with a firm diving header in the 55 minutes, only for Al-Sheeb to push it onto the underside of the crossbar and back out before Musa hacked it away.

Yan was then called into action as he dove at full stretch to his right to keep substitute Rodrigo Tabata’s free kick out.

Lippi gave Shanghai Shenhua winger Cao Yunding his debut soon after and the 26-year-old almost made an instant impact as he took on several defenders in the Qatari box, but his final effort found the side netting.

The woodwork then denied China once again with ten minutes left as Zheng Zhi ran onto a half-cleared ball and shot from outside the box, but his effort came off a Qatari defender before striking the goal post.

That would prove to be as good as it got for the home supporters, as Qatar endured some nervy final moments to come away with a share of the spoils.