Lippi hopes final year can be lucky number seven

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China faces Kyrgyzstan in its opening match and Lippi, who will turn 71 in April, is set to leave his post after the tournament concludes.

Guiding Team Dragon in the United Arab Emirates could well be Lippi's final act as a football coach should he choose to bring down the curtain on a glittering career that has seen him win the World Cup with Italy in 2006 as well as dozens of club titles and individual honours.

China will also go up against South Korea and the Philippines in Group C and Lippi billed his side as underdog.

"We know that in a competition like this there are favourites like [South] Korea, Japan, Iran and Australia," he said. "But in this kind of competition you always have a surprise team.

"So we really can become the surprise of this tournament, because it's now seven years that I have worked in China and I really want to give this big satisfaction to all the Chinese fans."

China has struggled throughout Lippi's two-year spell in charge of the national team, and their warm-up matches for the Asian Cup included a 2-1 defeat to Iraq, a 1-1 draw with Jordan and a 5-3 win over Abu Dhabi-based club Al Wahda.

Lippi reflected positively on his side's preparations for the tournament, following a training camp in humid conditions on the island of Hainan, and indicated that his team is ready to improve on China's performance in the competition four years ago when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Australia.

"I am very satisfied with the performance of the players in training, [but] injuries and sickness did occur," he said. "This is truly the first time that we have enough time for better preparation tactically and physically."

Kyrgyzstan coach Aleksandr Krestinin acknowledged that his side, ranked 15 places below China by FIFA, is not favourite to win its opening match while underlining the fact that Lippi's success as a coach came earlier in his career.

Krestinin's side won four of its last six friendlies over the last four months including a 1-0 victory over Jordan, which beat Australia in its Asian Cup opener.

"Obviously China has a very experienced coach who is a world champion, but he was not the world champion with China," Krestinin said. "We don't remember China winning anything in recent years."

Asked how he feels about not being favourites in Group C, the Russian coach replied: "That is the opinion of the Chinese media, but the score is currently 0-0 and we will see what happens."