Barcelona arrive in Japan ahead of the Club World Cup semi-final against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande on Thursday. Duration: 00:43
Barcelona arrive in Japan for Club World Cup
Football: Paulinho earns Guangzhou dream Barcelona tie
– 13 December 2015 21:58
– AFP (Pablo MELIAN)
Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho snatched an injury-time winner as China’s Guangzhou Evergrande stunned Mexico’s Club America 2-1 on Sunday to set up a Club World Cup semi-final against Barcelona in Japan.
Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima upset Congolese side Mazembe 3-0 in the second quarter-final in Osaka, sending the local favourites through to face Argentina’s Libertadores Cup holders River Plate.
Paulinho climbed to head in a corner with virtually the last touch of the game, completing an improbable comeback for Asian champions Guangzhou and leaving dazed America players sobbing on the turf at the final whistle.
“I play the game for moments like that,” Paulinho told reporters. “You never know what will happen in football so it’s better not to talk too much before the match, just play.”
Veteran striker Oribe Peralta had ended Guangzhou’s resistance with a diving header five minutes after the break, only for substitute Zheng Long to equalise against the run of play for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side 10 minutes from time.
Paulinho, the architect for Zheng’s classic sucker punch after a swift counter-attack, then sent Chinese fans wild as he put Evergrande through to a dream tie with European champions Barcelona in Yokohama on Thursday.
It was all too much for the fanatical America fans who braved the cold, many of them bare-chested and wearing colourful Mexican “lucha libre”-style wrestling masks. Numbed by the abrupt turnaround, they stared in silence as the Chinese celebrated.
“We were magnificent!” gushed Scolari, who guided Brazil to their fifth World Cup in Japan in 2002.
– Dare to dream –
“Why not dream now of beating Barcelona? We know we are small but we want to achieve great things. Paulinho is a massive player for us. He is the first to arrive for training and the last to leave.”
The former Chelsea coach was indebted to his goalkeeper Li Shuai, who manfully kept America at bay until Peralta struck, acrobatically tipping defender Paolo Goltz’s whipped free kick onto the bar in the pick of his many saves.
At the other end, ex-Real Madrid striker Robinho went close from distance but in truth Guangzhou offered little until their late salvo.
Mazembe, surprise finalists five years ago, used to employ witch-doctors while wizards behind the goals would break eggs to boost the team’s attacking potency, according to the FIFA website.
However, luck deserted the African champions, who dominated for long periods against Hiroshima but lacked a killer touch.
“It’s a big loss for us,” said Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron. “We didn’t play our usual game tonight and got exactly what we deserved, no excuses.”
Defender Tsukasa Shiotani, who scored in the 2-0 win over Auckland City on Thursday, poked home a Yusuke Chajima corner to give Hiroshima the lead just before halftime.
Centre-back Kazuhiko Chiba headed a second 11 minutes after the break to put the newly crowned J-League champions firmly in control before substitute Takuma Asano added a third.
“We scored our first goal at a great time,” said Hiroshima coach Hajime Moriyasu. “Mazembe were physically very strong which made it difficult but we showed good discipline and patience.”
Hiroshima face River Plate in Osaka on Wednesday.