Marañón: Missing last year's Zonal Final gave me sleepless nights
Bacolod: Ceres Negros forward Bienvenido Marañón is looking to overcome last year's AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal final heartbreak with a successful 2019 campaign ahead of their Group G opener against Shan United on Tuesday.
Having enjoyed a third prolific AFC Cup run in 2018, Spanish striker Marañón's Continental adventure was to end on a sour note after a two-match suspension ruled him out of the ASEAN Zonal final.
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old is back for a fourth appearance at the Continental tournament and spoke exclusively to the-AFC.com ahead of this year's competition.
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Q: Hello Bienvenido, the AFC Cup begins next week, how has the team's preparation been?
We're feeling good and are really looking forward to the tournament kicking off. Unfortunately, we were eliminated in the first round of qualifying for the 2019 AFC Champions League but this has meant we've been really focused on preparing for the AFC Cup.
Physically everyone is well and, while we're aware that the group we're in is a tough one, we are going to compete in each match and enjoy the experience.
See you all in Panaad in Feb 26 as we open our our fifth straight year in the AFC Cup. We will be facing top teams in the region in one of their toughest groups in tournament history. pic.twitter.com/HTt155ieK1— Ceres-Negros FC (@CeresNegrosFC) February 21, 2019
Q: As you say, it is a tough set of games to come in Group G with Becamex Binh Duong, Persija Jakarta, and Shan United the opponents. What are your views on these sides?
We know Shan United from last year's Group Stage. They are a tough team who go out to defend and are hard to break down. Playing away in Myanmar is always difficult because of the hot conditions, too.
I don't know much about Binh Duong but I expect them to be a good team who play in a competitive league, so it'll be two evenly-matched games with them.
I am really looking forward to playing Persija Jakarta at their home ground. We all know about their stadium and their fans from last year's AFC Cup, it will be an unforgettable experience for sure.
In this group, I think winning the home games is essential and then trying to pick up points away where we can - although, of course, any game we play we go out to win.
Q: What are Ceres' and your personal goals for this year's AFC Cup campaign?
Our goal is to, at the very least, equal what we've done in previous years and reach the ASEAN Zonal final, since every year we improve the team and the AFC Cup is our focus and our favourite competition.
For me personally, I see every AFC Cup game as a way to continue growing as a footballer and I approach each game as if it was a final. For this reason, and also due to the position [forward] I've been played these last years, I've been able to get a good return of goals for my efforts. I hope this year I can continue this way, and in doing so help the team achieve their aims.
Q: You missed out on the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal final last year due to suspension, how much motivation does that give you for the 2019 edition?
It was extremely frustrating to be ruled out of these series of games due to the suspension. It was a final and at the time I was the top scorer of the competition. To be honest, I had several sleepless nights as a result.
Anyway, this is a new year and I've put it behind me and I'm only focused on the 2019 campaign.
Q: Right now, football in the Philippines is going through a transitional period. How important is it then for Ceres to perform well at this year's AFC Cup?
In my opinion, football in the Philippines still needs to improve quite a bit still. This year could be a turning point, for sure, but a lot needs to be done.
We do know that brings a lot of focus on us and how we perform in the AFC Cup this year, representing Philippines football, but we take it as a motivation, not pressure, and that will be shown in our results.
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