South China aim for confidence-boosting win
The Nikon Asian Challenge Cup may be a friendly tournament, but South China head coach Jan Kocian knows a win over Guangzhou R&F today could finally add momentum to his team's stuttering league title bid.
Since a shock defeat by Tuen Mun on the league's opening day, the Caroliners have not won more than two games in a row, a lack of consistency that threatens to see them miss out on the championship for a second consecutive season.
But the other contenders have also been unable to put a streak together, and after an impressive 1-1 draw against J.League side Shimizu S-Pulse on Monday, Kocian said that result and a win over the mainlanders would give them a valuable edge in confidence.
South China fought back from a goal down, with Chan Siu-ki heading in a free kick from in-form debutant Joao Emir Porto Pereira. Though they missed out on a place in the final after losing on penalties, they more than held their own against the Japanese, who admittedly have just started preparing for the new season.
'It's good for the future, this confidence we'll get from this performance and facing the Chinese, and hopefully we can take that into the next games in the league against Pegasus, Citizen and so on. This is great experience for the team,' he said.
'[Guangzhou] are a very strong team ... it'll be very hard. I think in the next game I'll play some different players. We've got 23 in the squad and we can mix it up. I hope we can win, we've got a good chance, especially if we repeat the performance we had against Shimizu.'
Guangzhou's new coach, Sergio Farias, will demand a vast improvement after his team were thrashed 5-1 by Seongnam Ilhwa on Monday, thanks to some comical defending and goalkeeping in the first half.
'No doubt, we are confident we'll do better against South China,' said the Brazilian, who won the Asian Champions League with Pohang Steelers in 2009.
'Against Seongnam, the second half was very different, we changed greatly in the second half to get the ball more and more offensive opportunities; we had a lot of scoring opportunities, and if they could have taken them, we could possibly even have levelled.'
Farias, who was replaced by Diego Maradona at Qatari side Al Wasl after falling out with the owners, is looking forward to building a rival to big-spending Evergrande in Guangzhou with the newly promoted side.
'I like the challenge, I like a new team to start on. Like when I took over Pohang Steelers and took them to the peak in South Korea, at Guangzhou I have just begun,' he said.
Tonight's final should be an interesting game with Seongnam aiming to test themselves against Japanese opposition in preparation for their Asian Champions League campaign.
'I was part of the national team set-up of Korea for many years - two World Cups and one Asian Cup - so I have a very good awareness of Korean football players and Korean teams,' Afshin Ghotbi, Shimizu's Iranian coach, said. 'But I think it all has to do with how long we've been preparing. I think they've got a bigger squad, they were champions of Asia just two years ago so it's going to be a difficult match, but I think it'll be a great game.'
Seongnam coach Shin Tae-yong added: 'We cannot assure you we will win the championship but I'm confident we'll put in a good performance and show the Hong Kong fans what Korean soccer's all about.'