- Al Ain face River Plate in Club World Cup semi-finals
- Caio talks about the last-four showdown against Copa Libertadores champions
- The Brazilian hopes to score against River and open his UAE 2018 account
The road to professional football was certainly a challenging one for Caio. Having failed to break into the first team after coming through the youth ranks at Sao Paulo, he tried his luck with Santos and Palmeiras, again without success. Then just when he was on the verge of hanging up his boots, the Brazilian striker made an unexpected move to the Far East. Discovered by a Japanese university in Kimetsu, he began playing for Chiba Kokusai, which in turn led him to Kashima Antlers, where he signed his first professional contract in 2014.
Keen to showcase his talent, the Brazilian won the J-League championship with his club in 2016, before joining Al Ain, where he has become one of the team’s top scorers with 40 goals since his arrival. Now the Sao Paulo native is realising a dream after making his debut at the FIFA Club World Cup and helping his team reach the semi-finals, where they face Copa Libertadores champions River Plate.
"My aim is to give everything I can for the team, either by scoring goals or providing assists,” the 24-year-old told FIFA.com. "Right now, I’m just thinking about helping my side to get great results. That's my goal."
|Semi-final:||River Plate - Al Ain|
|Where:||Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium|
|When:||18 Dec 2018 - 20:30 Local time|
Caio and his team-mates are living the dream at UAE 2018, where Al Ain have notched up two wins from two thanks to their opening day shoot-out victory over Team Wellington and Saturday’s 3-0 drubbing of CAF Champions League winners Esperance.
"We entered the game [against the Tunisians] with a different mentality than we did in our first match with Team Wellington. We were keen not to concede first, as we wanted to avoid having a mountain to climb once again," said the Brazilian. “We managed to take the lead with an early goal. That was the best-case scenario, as it paved our way to victory.
"It's a wonderful feeling to be in the final four. We’re enjoying what we’ve achieved so far. We should be pleased and proud of what our team is doing in this tournament, as we gave absolutely everything to secure these results," he added. “Now we have to turn the Esperance page and start focusing on our next challenge."
Opening his scoring account
The UAE Pro-League champions are aware of the task ahead. The semi-final showdown against the recently crowned Copa Libertadores winners is very likely to be tougher than the previous two encounters. "River Plate are a top team with great potential, so we must be wary of them," warned the 24-year-old. "We have to make a greater effort this time around if we want to achieve a positive result. If we manage to play our best, I’m sure it will be a great match."
Caio is yet to get on the scoresheet at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018. He looked to have found the net in the opening match, only to see his strike chalked off by VAR for a team-mate's foul in the build-up. That said, the Brazilian has provided two assists and played his part in helping the hosts reach the last four.
"God willing, I’ll score my first goal in the semi-final against River. I’ll do my best to make it happen," he said.
Al Ain fans have played a key role in carrying the host side to victory in their first two games, amid wide celebrations in the stands.
"I want to thank the fans who came to the stadium and supported us throughout those games. Without them none of this would have been possible,” added Caio. “I promise them we’ll do everything we can to beat River Plate and reach the final.”
- Having failed to make it in Brazil, Caio almost abandoned his football career at a young age
- He was discovered by a Japanese university in Kimetsu, where he played for Chiba Kokusai
- In 2014 he signed his first professional contract with Kashima Antlers, with whom he won the J-League two years later
- He joined Al Ain in 2016 and is now one of the team's top scorers with 40 goals