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Cannavaro crisis builds after Evergrande's exit

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-18 10:19
Fabio Cannavaro, Guangzhou Evergrande coach. [Photo/VCG]

SHANGHAI-Fabio Cannavaro is under growing pressure at Guangzhou Evergrande after the Chinese heavyweight exited the AFC Champions League and has now failed to win in five straight matches over the past two weeks.

The Italian World Cup winner said his former side Tianjin Quanjian showed greater desire as Alexandre Pato scored in a 2-2 draw in Guangzhou on Tuesday to squeeze into the Champions League quarterfinals on away goals.

The 44-year-old Cannavaro, who left Tianjin to take over the Chinese champion from Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari in the offseason, has seen his side go out of the Chinese FA Cup and now the continent's top club competition in the space of two weeks.

With a third of the Chinese season gone, Guangzhou has only its Chinese Super League (CSL) title to defend.

It has won the domestic championship seven times in a row but faces a real battle to make it eight while sitting fifth in the standings, albeit only two points off faltering leader Shanghai SIPG.

"Football is a very strange thing," said Cannavaro, who last season took Quanjian into the Champions League for the first time in its short history and then saw his former side stun the two-time Asian champion.

"Perhaps you can score after one or two opportunities, but sometimes you probably can't after 30 shots... and we've often had this kind of situation this season," he told Oriental Sports Daily.

"For this game, we created lots of opportunities but couldn't score enough goals."

Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart hit a double in the last-16 clash on Tuesday, but twice the home side was swiftly pegged back by a Quanjian team that is in the bottom half of the CSL.

Fan frustration

Ambitious Quanjian, which along with Brazilian Pato has French striker Anthony Modeste in attack and Belgian international Axel Witsel in midfield, is in just its second season in China's top tier.

"Tianjin Quanjian's sense of hunger in these two games was a lot stronger than ours," said Cannavaro, whose side had been slight favorites to win the tie after forcing a scoreless draw in the first leg.

Guangzhou fans, so accustomed to seeing their side dominate, are growing increasingly restless and media turned the screw on the Italian, who skippered his country to World Cup glory in 2006.

Oriental Sports Daily said Cannavaro had little margin for further error, while Guangzhou Daily said the team has clearly deteriorated in some respects under Cannavaro.

But it also questioned the players' hunger and pointed out that Cannavaro was managing an aging squad that contains few outstanding players.

While the likes of Quanjian and CSL leader Shanghai SIPG have spent heavily on foreign players in the past two seasons, Evergrande has been comparatively restrained.

It lost Brazil international Paulinho to Barcelona last summer and replaced him with little-known Serbian Nemanja Gudelj from Tianjin Teda.

Guangzhou has pledged to build an all-Chinese team by 2020, in line with a government drive to improve the national team and rein in spending on overseas players.


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