Football: 'Big Phil' plots Club World Cup ambus

Football: 'Big Phil' plots Club World Cup ambus
China's Guangzhou Evergrande head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (C) celebrates with team players after the AFC Champions League semi-final football match against Japan's Gamba Osaka in Osaka on October 21, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

OSAKA, JAPAN - Guangzhou Evergrande boss Luiz Felipe Scolari has backed his side to pull off a shock at the Club World Cup in Japan.

The 67-year-old Brazilian, known as "Big Phil" in his native country, leads the Asian champions against Mexico's Club America in Sunday's quarter-finals - the reward for the winners a shot at Spanish giants Barcelona.

"It will be difficult but after winning the Chinese Super League and the Asian Champions League, we can dare to dream," Scolari said on Saturday. "Guangzhou should finish higher than they did last time." Two years ago, the Chinese champions finished fourth under Italian Marcello Lippi in Morocco.

"Beating that is our target," insisted Scolari. "We are going to give everything we have in the tournament, starting with Club America tomorrow." Cash-rich Guangzhou are unbeaten since the former Brazil and Chelsea coach took over the southern Chinese club in June, capturing their second Asian title in three years in October but Scolari has a mixed record in Japan.

Scolari guided Brazil to their fifth World Cup triumph in 2002 but was beaten by Ajax and Manchester United in the Intercontinental Cup - the forerunner of the Club World Cup - as manager of Gremio and Palmeiras respectively.

"Yes, it's a fact that I lost two Intercontinental Cup finals," he shrugged. "But I also won the World Cup in Japan. At the moment I am focused on just one thing, beating Club America." Victory against the Mexicans in Osaka would set up a mouth-watering clash with European champions Barcelona in Yokohama in midweek, where Scolari would be reunited with Brazil star Neymar.

Cruelly robbed of Neymar through injury, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in last year's World Cup semi-finals in what Scolari, in his second spell as national coach, called the "worst day of my life".

 

Scolari assured Brazilians back home that he had moved on from that traumatic defeat, which plunged the country into a state of mourning.

"My life continues," he said. "I continue with my career as a professional, no matter the country you are in. Please tell the people of Brazil I am very content." Scolari, who boasts a big-name line-up including former Real Madrid striker Robinho and one-time Spurs midfielder Paulinho, attempted to apply some psychological pressure on Club America.

"I respect them," he said. "Almost all the team has experience of playing for South American national sides - many Mexicans, Colombians and Paraguayans too. In theory they are better prepared than us." Club America captain Rubens Sambueza refused to be drawn into the mind games, however.

"It's up to us to make history," he said. "We've seen videos of (Guangzhou). They have good players and a great coach, but on the pitch we will trust in our potential. We have faith." In Sunday's second quarter-final, Congolese side Mazembe - surprise finalists in 2010 - take on Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima for the right to play Argentina's Libertadores Cup holders River Plate.

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