SIPG can't wait for Urawa tie, reveals Wang Shenchao
Kuala Lumpur: After eliminating Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the Round of 16 to avenge a bitter defeat three years ago, Wang Shenchao believes fate has delivered another opportunity for vengeance for Shanghai SIPG after the Chinese Super League champions were drawn to face Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Vitor Pereira’s side exorcised their Jeonbuk demons in June with a penalty shootout win over the two-time AFC Champions League winners as Shanghai banished the painful memories of the 5-0 aggregate loss inflicted upon them by the club from Korea Republic in the 2016 edition of the Continental championship.
And now SIPG captain Wang is anticipating the opportunity for further retribution against an Urawa side that curtailed the club’s AFC Champions League ambitions in the semi-finals of the 2017 edition when the teams meet in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
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“I think it’s fate that we are playing Urawa,” said Wang, “Because in the Round of 16 we faced Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and three years ago we lost to them and we were knocked out. But this season we got revenge.
“In the quarter-final the same scenario is happening, because we are meeting Urawa Reds and we hope we can get revenge once more. It’s fate.”
Urawa defeated Shanghai 2-1 on aggregate in the last four encounter in 2017, with the Japanese side winning the second leg at Saitama Stadium 1-0 to advance after the teams shared a 1-1 draw in China.
But while the pain of elimination lingers for Wang and his teammates, the 30-year-old is confident SIPG have improved enough to be capable of ousting the two-time AFC Champions League winners from this year’s competition.
“We’re better than two years ago,” he says. “We won the Chinese Super League trophy last year and this has brought our self-confidence, our cooperation and our mentality to a new level. It has gone up.
“If you follow us you will see that in a lot of matches we always fight back and that’s because of our spirit. We are not scared of anything. Our mentality is very important. It comes from the experience we have accumulated. We have grown up together and we have already cooperated together in a lot of matches.”
Last year’s Chinese Super League win was the first major trophy for the club since Shanghai East Asia was bought over by the Shanghai International Port Group in 2015 and their name changed to Shanghai SIPG.
Wang, though, has been a part of the setup in its various guises since joining the Genbao Football Academy as an 11-year-old and sees winning the AFC Champions League as the next logical step for an outfit that has made steady progress domestically throughout the last decade-and-a-half.
“Up until now we have already won the third division trophy, the second division trophy and now the top flight trophy and we won the Chinese FA Super Cup this year, so the AFC Champions League is the only tournament we’re lacking,” he said.
“Our dream is to keep going in the same direction and we hope to fulfill this dream that we’ve had since we were young. We can fulfil that by winning the AFC Champions League and then we will have won all the trophies we can win in the professional football era.
“We are all working in the same direction to fulfil this objective and if we can win it then the history of our team will be perfect.”
In addition to reaching the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League, Wang and company are also attempting to retain their Chinese Super League title – they are currently third in the standings. SIPG reached the semi-finals of the Chinese FA Cup, but were shown the exit when they lost 2-0 to Shandong Luneng.
Fighting on two fronts is nothing new for an SIPG side now established among the elite of the Asian game and Wang is confident fatigue will not be a factor as the climax of another hectic season approaches.
“We still have the chance to win two trophies and, to be honest, the fatigue in my body is there,” he says. “But this is not the first time that we’ve had to play in three tournaments, we’ve got experience of doing this.
“As a professional player, I want to say that if my head coach puts me in the team then I’ll give 120 percent of my energy to fight for the team. Even when we travel and when we aren’t playing I do feel fatigue, but I know I can overcome it.”
Photos: AFP, AFC, Shanghai SIPG
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