Shandong Luneng are faced with an uphill task in visiting Cerezo Osaka in tomorrow's all-important AFC Champions League group phase concluding game. The five-time Chinese champions need not only to win the match but also have the other result to go their way if they are to secure the group’s second, and last, qualifying spot behind Pohang Steelers.
While this is regarded as a hard mission even in the eyes of their faithful supporters, Shandong's forward Aloisio is adamant that his side, despite trailing both Buriram United and Cerezo on head-to-head records according to the tournament's tie-breaker, can seal the qualification with an emphatic home victory.
"We are footballers so we always work hard," the 25-year-old former Gremio and Sao Paulo striker told FIFA.com. "We will do whatever we can and never let a chance of winning a game or championship slip away."
Aloisio's confidence is not unfounded, considering his individual performance and the team’s result in the first-leg encounter against the Japanese side. Shandong took on Cerezo in the second match of the group stage after conceding a stoppage-time goal to finish level 1-1 with Buriram in their first contest. The dropped points at home made their hopes look slim against a side inspired by none other than Diego Forlan.
But Aloisio, who joined Shandong only at the start of the year, turned the game in their favour through his man-of-the-match performance. He opened the scoring inside five minutes before compatriot Vagner Love completed a brace as Shandong ran out 3-1 victors.
"We had a good game (against Cerezo Osaka)," Aloisio said. "We demonstrated good team work and everyone worked hard. Every player ran hard, fought for every loose ball and we got the result we had wanted.
"For me, I was happy to score (my first goal) as we won." The dynamic attacker would continue his goal-scoring form in Chinese Super League, breaking the deadlock in the 1-1 draw at Tianjin Teda before being on target in Shandong’s victory over an in-form Hangzhou Greentown 2-0.
Unsurprisingly, Aloisio has quickly established his place with his newly-adopted team. But unlike the majority of his team-mates mesmerising fans through their skills and sophistication on the ball, he has impressed with his responsibility, commitment and bravery.
"I may not be among the best in terms of skills and techniques, but I always try to make this up by working hard and giving my all," said Aloisio, affectionately nicknamed Boi Bandido (Bandit Bull) during his spell with Figueirense and is now referred to simply as Bull by his Chinese faithful. "I think I have yet to reach the level where I can be compared with the greatest stars of Brazil. So I should continue to work hard."
Despite his humility, Aloisio arrived in China in a high-profile move, having established his stardom place with Sao Paulo. During his past season with the Brazilian giants, he emerged the team's joint top-scorer with 13 goals alongside star striker Luis Fabiano as Sao Paulo maintained in the top-flight competition.
Notably, Aloisio wrote his name into Sao Paulo's folklore by scoring the 1000th goal in club history last July despite dropping the result on the day, losing to Bahia 2-1 at in front of a disappointed home crowd. "I was happy to see my name written into the history book," Aloisio admitted. "But for me the most important thing is that the team wins, no matter who delivers the strike."
Aloisio may have stunned even his own supporters with his move to Shandong, but he believes he made the right decision. Aloisio said: "It was still six months from my contact with Sao Paolo expiring when Shandong came to me with an offer, so I rejected.
“But after I learned about the club a little more, I changed my mind and decided to go. In Brazil, Sao Paolo is a leading club with the first-class facilities, but to my surprise I see Shandong is even better in terms of facilities.
I don't see any differences in the football here but I am still working hard to adapt to the local culture and life." He put it simply when asked about his ambitions for his first season in China. "I thank Shandong fans' strong support," he concluded. "I hope I can make them happy and proud of me with my performances, and especially my goals."