x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Denilson hopes for home comforts

The Brazilian returns to the UAE, where he played for six years, as the Pohang Steelers striker takes position against Mazembe.

Pohang Steelers' Brazilian striker Denilson speaks at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium yesterday.
Pohang Steelers' Brazilian striker Denilson speaks at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium yesterday.

ABU DHABI // The Pohang Steelers striker Denilson hopes to benefit from a certain "home advantage" when his side meet TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals of the Club World Cup at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium tomorrow. The Brazilian played in the Emirates between 1999 and 2005, turning out for Pro League sides Al Shabab and Al Nasr, either side of a two-year spell at Division One outfit Dubai Club. Now leading the line for South Korea's most successful side, he returns to the UAE looking to help the Steelers set up a semi-final tie with Estudiantes.

"I am delighted to be back here," said the 33-year-old. "This was my second home for six years and I hope my teammates feel how I am feeling just now. I have lots of friends here and for me it is a great chance to see them again. "But we did not come here as tourists, just to look around the country. We came to win, and I think everybody here expects us to progress to the semi-finals." The former Paris St Germain forward is already looking forward to facing Argentina's reigning Copa Libertadores champions.

"I am Brazilian and our coach [Sergio Farias] is Brazilian. While there is no direct rivalry between Estudiantes, Brazilians always like to beat Argentine teams so there is no doubt there is an indirect element of rivalry there." The Steelers, despite only managing seven goals in six games in the group stages of last season's Asian Champions League, scored 17 in six games during the latter rounds. Farias, a former Brazil Under 20 coach, says knockout tournaments provide the perfect stage for his side's attractive style of free-scoring, counter-attacking football.

"This type of tournament demands a lot of concentration because we know that if we lose one game, it is over: we are out," said Farias. "Our team have experience in knockout competitions this season though and performed very well and I think we are still improving with every game. "It is obviously always very important to score goals and it is in our team character to play aggressively in order to do this. We play tactically to score and this often makes it difficult for other teams."

Farias, however, is not underestimating his African opponents and said he has carried out as much research as possible ahead of tonight's clash. "We have gathered as much information on Mazembe as we could and now knowing how the African team play," he said. "We will try to exploit that. Of course, their coach is going to try to improve his side's weakness, but at least we know what they are. We will still need to be very careful though; they are the best team in Africa."

@Email:gmeenaghan@thenational.ae