Jankovic takes aim at 2026 World Cup
Published: Mar 01, 2023 11:34 PM
Serbian Jankovic Photo: VCG

Serbian Jankovic Photo: VCG

Aleksandar Jankovic, the new head coach for the Chinese men's national football team, said he has made up his mind to push his team to reach the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 

The 50-year-old Serbian coach, who was appointed last week, called for all team members to follow his training plans, which are supposed to start as early as "tomorrow morning," at a press conference in ­Haikou, South China's Hainan Province on Wednesday. 

"We must have a good discipline, hard training and hard work to achieve our goals. We will put all the details together starting tomorrow," he said.   

Jankovic will make his professional debut for China on March 23, when the team plays a friendly match against New Zealand in Auckland. After that he will meet greater tests at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and the 2026 Asian qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup.

The new head coach expressed his opinion concerning naturalized players, saying no one should differentiate between team members who fight for China.

He mentioned naturalized forward Ai Kesen (Elkeson), who recently joined Chendu Rongcheng after returning from Brazil.

"For me, the criteria for selecting national team players fit the values recognized by the Chinese people. They should be dedicated, organized and disciplined athletes who must train hard so that they can represent the spirit of the Chinese people," Jankovic said. 

China has a history of foreigners acting as head coach for the national team, particularly after Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic took China to the FIFA World Cup in 2002, its only appearance at the event. 

Jankovic, a former player for a number of European teams, including Red Star Belgrade in Serbia and Standard Liege in Belgium, started his career in China in September 2018 when he was named coach of the Chinese under-19 national team. 

In July 2022, he later led a team that was primarily composed of under-23 athletes to the East Asian Champion-ships in Japan, where they placed third out of four teams.