“Our goal against Barcelona in the semi-final? Victory! Nothing else but victory!,” exclaimed a defiant Luiz Felipe Scolari in his press conference following Guangzhou Evergrande’s dramatic win over Club America.
Now that the dust has settled on Sunday’s success in Osaka, Scolari and his coaching staff have considered how best to stop the Spanish and European champions who have only lost six games during the course of 2015.
FIFA.com caught up with Guangzhou Evergrande’s Zheng Zhi to ask how they planned to halt the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
“We must focus on defence and try not to concede a goal easily,” he said. “But it is really down to our abilities and performance as to whether we can keep them at bay.
“In our last appearance at the Club World Cup back in 2013 we played against Bayern Munich but lost 3-0. We’re glad to be facing the European champions again this time around. It’s a great chance for us to see how we’ve progressed and also gain even more experience against tough opponents.”
The 35-year-old admitted that the prospect of facing Barcelona in Yokohama served as a great source of extra motivation for him and his team-mates when the odds were stacked against them in Sunday's quarter-final.
With ten minutes to go against Club America, they were losing 1-0 and appeared to be heading for the match for fifth place, but turned it around in dramatic fashion to win 2-1 in the final minute of added time.
“We played so hard against America because we wanted to win so badly and earn the opportunity of playing against Barcelona,” he smiled.
“That was our goal before we came to Japan. We wanted to face the world’s best team. So, now we are, and we need to embrace the opportunity and enjoy the game. We’ve now got the confidence of winning our opening match and that will hopefully give us a platform to build on for the next game. As a team, we’ll give our all and hopefully fulfil our expectations."
Zheng excelled in his role as skipper when Guangzhou won their maiden AFC Champions League title two years ago, producing performances which earned him the AFC Player of the Year Award.
The former Premier League midfielder captained his team to the domestic and continental double again this year and believes that his colleagues can take great heart from their successes.
“Playing the Club World Cup is the reward for our title-winning performances in the AFC Champions League,” he said.
“We are playing in the Club World Cup representing Asia and this proves that we are the continent’s best. It is also recognition of our footballing ability. We want to showcase what we are capable of in front of the watching world."