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Football: Conca hopes South American experience can galvanise Guangzhou

Argentine playmaker Dario Conca will be a key player for Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League final second leg on Saturday, having scored eight goals in this year’s competition. Photo: WSG.

Argentine playmaker Dario Conca will be a key player for Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League final second leg on Saturday, having scored eight goals in this year’s competition. Photo: WSG.

November 7, 2013: Five years after losing in the final of South America’s Champions League, Argentine playmaker Dario Conca is determined to clinch the Asian crown when Guangzhou Evergrande host FC Seoul in Saturday’s AFC Champions League decider following a 2-2 draw in last month’s first leg.

 

In the final of the 2008 Copa Libertadores, Conca missed his side’s first penalty in the shootout for Fluminense as the Brazilian club eventually lost to Liga de Quito of Ecuador.

 

Conca is now hoping to use his big-match experience to ensure Marcello Lippi’s Chinese champions do not suffer the same fate at a sold-out Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou on Saturday.

 

“It’s an important factor because if you’ve had previous experience in these kind of global games it does help going into the second match,” Conca said. “In my opinion, the first match is used to get to know the opponent in detail and then the second match you plan out the whole match in order to win it. The experience I had previously will help out with this second leg.”

 

Conca joined Guangzhou in a high-profile move from Fluminense midway through 2011, having been named the Brazilian league’s Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010. The 30-year-old has been central to Guangzhou’s success this year, scoring eight goals for Lippi’s side en route to the AFC Champions League final after helping them reach the quarter-finals in their competition debut last year.

 

“Last year’s experience has helped us a lot. It’s hard to feel very important when it’s your first time playing in a tournament,” he said. “However, when you get there again the next year and in the years to come, you start to feel as if you’re part of a group of very high-level teams worldwide, which is very positive for our team. It has helped us a lot and hopefully it will go our way this year.”

 

Conca’s five-game AFC Champions League scoring streak ended at Seoul World Cup Stadium as teammates Elkeson of Brazil and China striker Gao Lin struck to hand Guangzhou two potentially valuable away goals. Guangzhou are seeking to become the first Chinese side to win a continental title since Liaoning landed the 1990 Asian Club Championship.

 

“It’s a very important match and much more difficult than the first match because both teams know each other so there’s more to play with, but we’re not going to hold back. We’re going to put all our effort into the game and it’s going to be very entertaining and a lot of fun,” he said.

 

“It’s going to be amazing to be at home because this is our stadium, we know the field and we have our fans to support us. In the end, however, it’s not the biggest factor that will influence the result of the match. It’s up to us to do our work and to put 100 per cent effort into winning the game.”

 

Unlike Conca, Italian World Cup-winning coach Lippi has already tasted success at the continental level after guiding Juventus to the 1996 UEFA Champions League title. Conca believes the 65-year-old’s arrival midway through last year has been a significant factor in the club’s success.

 

“Lippi has a big influence on our team due to the great experience he has gained throughout his career,” Conca said. “We trust his opinions, we trust his way of coaching us, so it’s up to us to put all of these factors into what we do on the field and show him that we’re capable of following such a great coach.”

 

Guangzhou had already secured a third consecutive Super League crown prior to last month’s first leg and last weekend wrapped up the domestic campaign with a 5-0 win over relegated Wuhan with Conca, Elkeson and Gao all on target.

 

Lippi opted to leave out AFC Champions League leading scorer Muriqui and right-back Zhang Linpeng against Wuhan, although both are expected to feature against FC Seoul. Guangzhou could name the same side for a fourth consecutive game in the AFC Champions League.

 

FC Seoul arrived in Guangzhou on Thursday following a morale-boosting 2-1 win over cross-town rivals Suwon Bluewings in the K-League last weekend. Montenegro striker Dejan Damjanovic scored both goals, having also scored the late equaliser against Guangzhou.

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