Luiz Felipe Scolari is eager to take Guanzghou Evergrande Taobao to new heights with a win in Sunday’s Club World Cup third-place play-off against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Guangzhou, the only Chinese team to have competed in the tournament, finished fourth in their last appearance two years ago under the stewardship of Marcelo Lippi.
Scolari, who suffered defeats in the Intercontinental Cup final with Gremio and Palmerias, has enjoyed great success since taking charge in June, lifting the Chinese Super League title and the AFC Champions League just last month.
While the World Cup-winning former Brazil boss accepts the 3-0 semi-final loss to Barcelona proved the gap that still exists between Guangzhou and the world’s very best teams, he is keen to cap his side’s progress in 2015 with one last victory.
“We have a clear objective – and that’s to finish third in the tournament,” he said. “We’ve had a great year and grown a lot over the past 12 months and we’ve been playing well, but our defeat in the semi-final showed that we’re still some distance behind the biggest teams in the world.”
For Sanfrecce boss Hajime Moriyasu, this week has been a significant learning curve in terms of the way in which Japan approaches its football.
The 47-year-old, whose side lifted the J.League title this year and have already bested their previous finish of fifth at this tournament, believes the visiting sides in Japan have shown the way his own team should look to develop in the coming years.
“This tournament has been a tremendous learning experience for us on the pitch and off it,” he said.
“The atmosphere that the River Plate fans created should encourage Japan to change our football culture by learning from other countries which have more history in football.”
Guangzhou face Sanfrecce without influential defender Zou Zheng, who suffered a broken leg during the semi-final defeat to Barcelona, while fellow centre-back Feng Xiaoting is suspended after picking up a booking in that game.
Kosei Shibasaki and Gakuto Notsuda (both knee) are out for Sanfrecce, while Kazuhiko Chiba is banned.
Sunday’s encounter in Yokohama is the first competitive clash between the two sides, as well as the only time clubs from China and Japan have met at the Club World Cup.