Surprises at the FIFA Club World Cup 2016 in Japan have been in thick supply for Edu. The six-foot Brazilian with bleached blonde hair happily discovered that Jeonbuk Hyundai Coach Choi Kanghee had given him a place in the starting XI against CONCACAF champions Club America. Next, and sweetening his selection even further, Edu bumped into countryman William Da Silva while lining up prior to the match.
The Jeonbuk forward happily broke ranks in the tunnel to hug the Club America No7. When asked post-match if the hug was just a case of two Brazilians enjoying a moment of saudades – that powerful word used widely in Portugal and Brazil to describe a strong feeling of nostalgia or a longing for an absence - the striker laughed and explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com:
“Through a series of coincidences I met William for the first time back in May this year,” he said. “I was in Brazil, staying at my place. I went to the gym in my building and there William was, training. I’ve owned my place for two years and I’d never ever seen him there. It turns out he’s lived in the same building as me for the past two years. He's my neighbour!”
The absence of home is something Edu has had to endure for some time, having lived away from Brazil in a career that has taken him through Europe and much of Asia. “I've played in Korea, China and Japan. It’s been an amazing opportunity to experience Asian football,” he said, “People have always received me so warmly. Today, even at 35, I am still given the opportunity to play football here and I still have the desire to play. I’m really grateful for that.”
I've played in Korea, China and Japan. It’s been an amazing opportunity to experience Asian football.
Kanghee chose Edu over countryman Leonardo, despite Leonardo being the top scorer for his team in their championship-winning AFC run. “Until now, Edu hadn't played in many matches, but he kept himself prepared and amped up for this tournament, which is why I gave him the chance," the coach explained.
The choice showed great promise, with Edu looking dangerous for a long spell of the match, holding up the ball strongly to build the attack and making some enterprising runs into space. But with each fading Jeonbuk attack America gathered momentum. The Asian champions were eventually overpowered by Silvio Romero. The Argentinian slipped into a groove and fired two past Hong Jungnam to seal a semi-final meeting with Real Madrid.
“We may have come as Asian champions but the team doesn’t have a lot of experience in international competitions like this one,” said Edu. “I think we started poorly, then we got much better. But then, in the second half, we spent too much time passing at the back instead of going on the attack.
“It’s strange because we search for the attack and do it well in training all the time, but I don't know why - maybe it's nerves, maybe lack of experience. We couldn’t get it right in the match,” he said.
Jeonbuk face African champions Mamelodi Sundowns on 14 December in the pair’s final game of Japan 2016. “As Brazilians we want to always win,” said Edu, reflecting on the next game. “My desire is to play and to win, so we'll have to see what our coaches' plans are for the final game.”