Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande FC advanced to the last four of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 on Saturday, defeating African champions Al Ahly SC 2-0.
Marcello Lippi’s side owed a large part of their victory to the inspired displays of their three South American stars, with Argentinian playmaker Dario Conca and Brazilian midfielder Elkeson notching the crucial goals.
Brazilian forward Muriqui, who failed to get on the scoreboard despite finding himself one-on-one with the opposing goalkeeper on two occasions, can console himself with two excellent assists. His finishing deficiencies did not prevent him from joyously celebrating at the final whistle.
“I didn’t score, but we won all the same," Muriqui said. "That’s the most important thing. On the first goal, I could have scored, but a defender cleared the ball off the line. And then I had a shot saved by the goalkeeper during the move that led to the second goal. Thankfully, Conca followed up well.”
Conca, who was voted Man of the Match, also struggled to hide his delight. “I’m so happy that we won, because the first match is always the most important one,” he said. “It’s even more satisfying for me as I directly contributed to the positive result.”
The Argentinian attacking midfielder had already stated beforehand that he would bring his time with Guangzhou Evergrande to an end after the Club World Cup in order to return to Brazilian giants Fluminense, the club he left in 2011 for over €8m.
Based on the outstanding performance he put in versus Al Ahly, he has clearly decided to leave the Chinese outfit on a high note. “I think we’re capable of doing well in this tournament, and maybe even pulling off a big surprise. I trust in my team-mates completely. I know we can go very far,” he continued.
Perhaps the ‘surprise’ mentioned by Conca could take the shape of a shock win over Bayern Munich in Tuesday’s semi-final. Boosted by their success over the Egyptians, the Asian champions will go into the high-profile encounter brimming with confidence, but also with a huge amount of respect for their opponents.
“It’s going to be a very difficult task – after all, they won the UEFA Champions League and are the favourites for the Club World Cup,” explained Elkeson. “We’Il need to prepare really well to be in with a chance of knocking the Germans out, because the match is sure to be tricky.”
Elkeson, Conca and Muriqui will again be expected to play a critical role for their team against the reigning kings of Europe. In his post-match comments, coach Marcello Lippi stated that while he was generally satisfied with the way his team had performed, he would be looking for much more from Guangzhou’s South American trio against Bayern.