Brazilian giants Santos make their eagerly-awaited debut at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 when they meet Kashiwa Reysol in Wednesday’s semi-final. The Japanese champions start as underdogs, but are confident of springing a surprise after winning their opening two games at the event.
Kashiwa Reysol are on a roll at present. The J.League side, who made history at the beginning of the month by becoming the first team to win the Japanese top flight the year after promotion, saw off Auckland City and Monterrey last week to claim a semi-final berth in this their first appearance at the competition. For Kashiwa manager Nelsinho Baptista, the clash with Santos takes on special significance, as the 61-year-old tactician represented the famous Brazilian club both as a player and a coach.
Santos qualified for Japan 2011 - also their first appearance at a FIFA Club World Cup - as winners of the Copa Libertadores, and rate as favourites for the semi-final match. The Brazilians’ chief weapon is highly-rated youngster Neymar, his team’s top scorer with six goals en route to claiming the continental title. Coach Muricy Ramalho’s squad includes two further Brazilian internationals, Elano and Paulo Henrique Ganso, who are both fit again after long injury lay-offs, and well capable of settling a match with one moment of magic.
9 - Kashiwa Reysol are now unbeaten in nine matches, with their last defeat having come on 25 September in a 3-1 J.League loss at home to Omiya Ardija.
"I’ll talk to the team about how we’ll play this game to win it. The prospect of competing at the Club World Cup was a great motivating factor for us to win the J.League. It brings valuable experience, and it’s a great honour for us. All this is very new and a new environment for us. For my young players in particular, it’s the first time they’ve played international opponents, and now we'll face Santos. Santos is a top team with great individual talent, and we’ll try and reply as a team. I have affection toward Santos from the past, but now I’m at Kashiwa Reysol and I really want us to play a great game against them," Kashiwa Reysol coach Nelsinho Baptista.
"I played together with Jorge Wagner for Sao Paulo, and I’ve watched both Kashiwa Reysol’s games, where they showed they have real quality. I’ve played in Japan myself, so I know you don’t just show up and win the J.League. We obviously can’t afford any mistakes if we’re to make it to the final," Santos striker Borges.