Luiz Felipe Scolari is not afraid of FC Barcelona. “I have the utmost confidence in my players,” he said in his pre-game press conference ahead of Thursday’s semi-final. “Barça are one of the best teams in the world, but we know our own qualities. We have the dedication, the intelligence and we will put in a good performance,” added convincingly the Guangzhou Evergrande coach.
The Brazilian returns to the stadium where he coached his country to victory in the final of the 2002 World Cup and he displayed great confidence in his current team and Chinese football in general. “It is getting better every day, every time we come up against other footballing schools,” said the 67 year old.
“We are an experienced team, Asian champions, and we have already between Mexican side América in the previous round. I have respect for Barça but I have confidence in us.”
Scolari highlighted the role of his captain Zheng Zhi: “He brings together quality, leadership and heart. All of Guangzhou will play according to those values.” Asked about Neymar and Messi, he replied that both are amongst the top three players in the world. About the possible absence of the Brazilian, he admitted: “When he doesn’t play then any other team would have trouble. But at Barça they have 25 or 26 players at a similar level to Neymar so for Barça it is not so much trouble.”
In conclusion Scolari admitted that he came close to becoming Barça coach back in 2004. “I was coach of Portugal at the time and I still had two years left on my contract. To leave at that moment would not have been ethical. I admire how Barça behave as a team but that happened and life continued.”