Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Douglas continued his dynamic season with a sparkling performance in the 2-0 victory over Auckland City FC at FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015, another step on a meteoric rise that seemed unlikely just a year ago. The Brazilian joined Hiroshima this season and made an immediate impact by finishing as second-highest scorer in the J.League’s first division, just two goals behind the top sharpshooter.
And though Douglas made a major contribution to Sanfrecce’s championship charge, even he probably did not foresee this year’s golden run. Having moved to Japan in 2010 to play for second-division club Tokushima Vortis, he and his team went on to earn promotion to the top tier following the 2013 campaign.
Douglas, however, had a disappointing first stint in J1 and failed to score in 13 appearances, subsequently switching to second-division club Kyoto Sanga for the second half of the 2014 season. All of which makes his upturn in fortunes, following his shift to Sanfrecce in 2015, all the more remarkable.
Putting in an eye-catching performance in the opening game of the Club World Cup at International Stadium Yokohama, Douglas’ display was capped by being named the Alibaba E-Auto Most Valuable Player. Brought on as a substitute in the 53rd minute, Douglas set up Hiroshima’s second goal and created several other chances as he switched between playing as a withdrawn striker and on the wing.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com after the match, Douglas was quick to deflect praise for his performance onto his team: “This result is thanks to the hard work of the players and staff. I have been warmly welcomed since I came to Sanfrecce and everything has gone well this season. That’s because I have some fantastic team-mates,” Douglas said modestly.
Douglas, who says he admires and was inspired by legendary Brazil strikers Ronaldo and Romario, described the Club World Cup as a tournament “every player wants to take part in”. Sanfrecce’s No 9, who personifies the club’s philosophy of “putting the team first”, clearly savoured every moment he spent on the field.
“The atmosphere was amazing. Right until I got to go on the pitch, I was just hoping I’d get the chance to somehow help my team,” said Douglas and, when his opportunity arrived, he grabbed it with both hands. “I was thrilled to play in this game and I think I was able to help my team, just as I had wanted to.
“It was important to win today, but I’m not satisfied yet. I am aiming higher and I’ll do whatever I can to help my team win. Our next game against TP Mazembe is only a few days away, and I want to play well again then too.”
The quarter-final against the African champions represents a major hurdle for Sanfrecce. At the Club World Cup Japan 2012, the Purple Archers were beaten at this stage by Al Ahly and had to settle for a spot in the play-off for fifth place.
Thus, although Sanfrecce have their sights set on what would be a mouth-watering semi-final encounter with Argentinian giants River Plate, Douglas insisted his side would not underestimate the challenge posed by TP Mazembe. “Mazembe are a strong team, and they defeated Internacional [de Porto Alegre] in the past [in 2010],” said the Brazilian, who turns 28 later this month.
“If we can win the next match, we’ll play against River Plate, but we can’t look any further ahead than this upcoming game. I want Hiroshima to play their own style of football and keep winning,” continued the forward, before signing off with words of thanks for the Hiroshima supporters who turned out in droves despite steady rain.
“I’m very grateful that so many of our supporters came today,” Douglas concluded. “The next game will be even tougher, so I hope all our fans will come along then, too. As we chase victory, Sanfrecce Hiroshima will stand united.”