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Evergrande carries hopes of the entire nation - Gao Lin

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2015-11-20 08:19

 Evergrande carries hopes of the entire nation - Gao Lin

Gao Lin (right) is looking to guide Guangzhou Evergrande to a second AFC Champions League title in three years on Saturday.Provided To China Daily

Forward Gao Lin believes Guangzhou Evergrande carries the hopes of all Chinese soccer fans into Saturday's AFC Champions League final second leg against Al Ahli of the UAE as it aims to claim its second continental title in three years at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium.

Although the tie is tantalizingly poised ahead of the decisive meeting in Guangzhou after the goalless stalemate in the first leg in Dubai earlier this month, a score-draw would be enough for Al Ahli to prevent Luiz Felipe Scolari's Super League championship side from adding to its Champions League success in 2013.

And with the Chinese national team's hopes of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup suffering a blow after Tuesday night's goalless draw in Hong Kong, Guangzhou's fate in the AFC Champions League final takes on even greater significance.

"The Chinese fans need a team like Guangzhou Evergrande to win the AFC Champions League title," said Gao, who has been capped more than 80 times for China, although he missed out on the trip to Hong Kong.

"We all know that Chinese soccer is slowly developing, but victory in this game will give it a big push. This way we can build confidence in the Chinese players as well as fans in China; and they will not lose any hope in Chinese soccer.

"A lot of Chinese fans are supporting us to win on Saturday and we have a chance to reward that faith."

The 29-year-old was an important part of the Guangzhou side that lifted its maiden AFC Champions League crown two years ago under FIFA World Cup-winner Marcello Lippi to end China's 23-year wait for a continental title after Liao-ning defeated Japan's Nissan FC to win the 1990 Asian Club Championship.

And Gao again has played a role in helping Guangzhou claim its fifth straight domestic title with a career-high 13 Super League goals as well as scoring against Kashiwa Reysol in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in Japan.

"Compared to the 2013 AFC Champions League, the 2015 edition is more difficult. We suffered injuries early in the year and we had to get to this stage again step-by-step," said Gao.

"In the early or middle part of this year, no one would have expected that we could be on the verge of another domestic and continental double to match 2013. But here we are: champion of China and in the AFC Champions League final. This is really an exciting achievement."

With Lippi's role taken by Italian Fabio Cannavaro at the beginning of the 2015 campaign, Guangzhou negotiated its way past South Korea's FC Seoul, last year's champion Western Sydney Wanderers of Australia and Japan's Kashima Antlers to top Group H before eliminating another K-League Classic side, Seongnam FC, in the Round of 16.

That was to prove Cannavaro's last involvement in the AFC Champions League with Guangzhou and Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Scolari took over in the summer to guide the club past Kashima and then Japan's Gamba Osaka in the semifinals.

"To me, Lippi, Cannavaro and Scolari are all great coaches and they all have added elements to the team to help us improve and get where we are today," said Gao.

"Mr Scolari, for example, pays more attention to the defensive side and requires more in all the details, but all three have given something to us through their great experience and we are getting stronger through having had such excellent coaches."


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