Barca have '25 Neymars': Scolari

Guangzhou Evergrande's Brazilian connection Paulinho (left) and Robinho (right) laughing with Zheng Long during their training session in Yokohama ahead of their semi-final clash with Barcelona.
Guangzhou Evergrande's Brazilian connection Paulinho (left) and Robinho (right) laughing with Zheng Long during their training session in Yokohama ahead of their semi-final clash with Barcelona.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

But former Brazil coach relishes challenge his Guangzhou will face in Club World Cup

YOKOHAMA (Japan) • Luiz Felipe Scolari believes his Guangzhou Evergrande side will come up against "25 Neymars" when they face Barcelona today even though the Brazil captain is likely to miss the Club World Cup semi-final clash with a groin strain.

"Neymar is one of the top three players in the world," said the former Brazil coach, whose side upset Mexico's Club America 2-1 in their quarter-final 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. It will be a huge challenge but one we relish."

He has fond memories of Yokohama, where he led Brazil to their fifth World Cup triumph in 2002 when they beat Germany 2-0 in the final.

"When we arrived on the bus today, I had some nice flashbacks to that time," he said. "It's a place which has great significance for Brazil. But that chapter of my life is over, so let's see what happens."

He compared Barca's devastating MSN strikeforce 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 a good performance 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 enjoy and learn from it. We don't fear and we have no reason to be nervous."

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique predicted that Guangzhou may try to disrupt Barcelona's game with tactical fouling in Yokohama.

"I imagine they will try to use any method they can to stop us and disrupt our style of play," said the centre-back. "One way of doing this is by committing fouls."

The competition features the six continental club champions plus a team from the host nation.

South American champions River Plate scraped into the final yesterday with a 1-0 win over Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Lucas Alario headed in the only goal in the second half but it was their goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero who was the real hero as he kept the Argentinian side in the game in the first half with a flurry of saves.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'BARCA HAVE '25 NEYMARS': SCOLARI'. Print Edition | Subscribe