'They have 25 Neymars but we have heart and desire': Scolari backs Guangzhou Evergrande against Barcelona
Colourful Brazilian coach warns Spanish champions to expect a battle in a Club World Cup semi-final
Guangzhou Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has warned Barcelona to expect a battle in today’s Club World Cup semi-final in Yokohama.
“Barcelona are one of the best teams on the planet, everybody knows that,” the Brazilian said yesterday.
“But my players have the heart and the desire to make a game of it and I expect them to show that .”
Barcelona forward Neymar remained in doubt as he struggles to recover from a groin injury but he did some running at training yesterday and could be a surprise starter.
“Neymar is one of the top three players in the world,” said the former Brazil coach, whose Evergrande side upset Mexico’s Club America 2-1 in the quarter-finals at the weekend.
“He has the potential to be the best player in the world in the next five years but Barcelona have 25 Neymars. They have quality in every position.
“They have [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, [Andres] Iniesta, the list goes on – players who can hurt you everywhere,” he added. “It will be a huge challenge but one we relish.”
Scolari, known as “Big Phil” in his native Brazil, has fond memories of Yokohama, having led this country to their fifth World Cup triumph there in 2002 when they beat Germany 2-0 in the final.
“When we arrived on the bus I had some nice flashbacks to that time,” said Scolari. “It’s a place which has great significance for Brazil. But that chapter of my life is over so let’s see what happens.”
Scolari compared Barca’s devastating “MSN” strike force of Messi, Suarez and Neymar to his 2002 trio of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.
“It’s hard to say which attack was better,” said the 67-year-old. “But Barcelona’s MSN is absolutely world class. Clearly we will have our hands full.”
Scolari will hope Brazilians Paulinho, scorer of a dramatic late winner to break Mexican hearts, and Robinho, the former Real Madrid striker, can spark against a Barca side who have drawn their last three games.
“I don’t need to say anything to my players to give them any extra motivation,” insisted Scolari. “They’ve won the Chinese league, the Asian Champions League and beat Club America in our first game in Japan. That’s all the motivation they need.”
Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi promised that the Chinese would not be intimidated by their illustrious opponents.
“We have been looking forward to this game,” said the veteran midfielder. “We just want to go out and enjoy it, and learn from it. We don’t fear them and we have no reason to be nervous.
“We will put our heart and soul into it,” he added. “Barcelona are a fantastic side but we will be ready. We want to go out and play to our potential and see what happens.”
Messi believes the current Barcelona side has more weapons than Pep Guardiola’s 2009 world-beaters and wants to prove it by winning a record third Club World Cup.
This would add to a glittering trophy collection with Barca having captured the Champions League, Spain’s La Liga, the Copa del Rey and European Super Cup this year.
“[The Club World Cup] is one of my favourite competitions,” said Messi.
“It gives you the opportunity to round off the year in the best possible way. “