Cordeiro wants Shield as farewell gift
Long-serving expatriate Cristiano Cordeiro is aiming to end his Hong Kong career on a high note when he leads Sunray Cave Sun Hei against South China in the Canbo Senior Shield final today. Playing his 14th year in Hong Kong, the Brazilian centre half (pictured) intends to return to his home country at the end of the season, hopefully with a trophy.
'The Shield carries a special meaning for me as I won it in my first season in Hong Kong with South China in 1998,' said the 38-year-old, who is team captain and a two-time winner of the Footballer of the Year award. 'As I am about to end my career, it would be an emotional gift before my departure.
'We know it is very difficult for us to win the league as we do not have a big squad like South China, Kitchee or [TSW] Pegasus,' he said. 'But the cup is another matter, especially as we are now in the final and the title is just one match away. We have nothing to lose and will battle for every inch, although it won't be easy against South China as they have been making big progress recently.'
Sun Hei were well beaten by the Caroliners when they last met in the league two weeks ago, but Cordeiro reckoned it would be different in the final. 'Sometimes the boys lack the motivation in a league match as there is nothing to chase, but the atmosphere will be totally different in a cup final,' he said. 'We have set sights on winning the trophy as it will also give the boys the opportunity to play in the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] Cup next year. There is certainly no lack of determination.'
Sun Hei coach Ricardo Rambo said they had learned from the defeat two weeks ago. 'We cannot allow them too much space to move and will launch close marking before they get to the three-quarter line.'
Meanwhile, Pegasus striker Godfred Karikari has been dropped from the Hong Kong training squad as his eligibility is not yet confirmed.
Coach Ernest Merrick also made changes before the final practice on Tuesday. Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng, whose last-minute blunder cost them dearly in a 2-1 defeat in the top-of-the-table clash against Pegasus last week, was sent home, along with injured Sun Hei midfielder Leung Tsz-chun, Liang Zicheng and Chan Ming-kong. Pegasus goalkeeper Tsang Man-fai steps up to senior level, while midfielders Chan Man-fai and Yip Tsz-chun have also been called up. Hong Kong play Taiwan in a friendly on February 29, their first match under Merrick.