Talisca: It's my goal to be a champion of Asia
Saitama: Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Anderson Talisca insisted that winning the AFC Champions League is the reason he joined the two-time Continental champions as they prepare for the first leg of their semi-final against Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday.
When the 24-year-old Brazilian joined then Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande on loan from Turkish side Beskitas in June 2018, his new team had already been eliminated from that year's AFC Champions League competition.
As such, the 2019 edition became the exciting attacker's first taste of Continental action and he immediately took a liking to the tournament.
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"I had never played in it before, so I was impressed by the high standard and competitive level of all the teams involved," said Talisca, who scored four times in Guangzhou's first three Group Stage matches.
"I was really happy with my statistics in such a high level tournament, but the important thing for me was and is always my team's performance and results, that's the focus."
However, disaster struck at the end of April when the former Brazil youth international suffered a knee ligament injury that saw him miss the final two Group F ties as well as the Round of 16 clash with Shandong Luneng.
"It was a big burden for me, as I was out for a long time due to the injury," recalls Talisca.
"However, it became a big motivation for me to return and fight for the team and help my teammates.
"Gradually I am getting back to my best shape in the competition and my absence is a big reason for me to play even better in the matches to make up for lost time."
Talisca certainly made an impression on his return against Kashima Antlers in the quarter-finals. Although unable to score in the first leg at Tianhe Stadium, the Guangzhou number nine had his moment in the return meeting in Japan.
Rising highest at a corner five minutes before half-time, the 6'3" Talisca powered home a header that ultimately proved to be the match-winner as the defending champions were eliminated on away goals following the 1-1 draw.
"It was a really important game for us. We achieved a really good result in the first half, played a very good game," he said.
"In the second half we were under pressure, but that’s normal. They are a strong team, playing at home, with the support of their fans and in the second half they tried to play a better game.
"But luckily we won the tie and I scored the goal which helped our progress to the semi-final. And we were very happy to play such a great game."
Wednesday will bring another Japanese opponent, two-time champions Urawa, and Talisca admits he is an admirer of the style of football the J.League clubs display.
"The Japanese teams are technically very good, they retain and like to touch the ball more," he said.
"I really like the way they play, they are very similar to European teams but, at the same time, Chinese football has its own style, Japanese football has its own style.
"It’s just two different kinds of football."
While the semi-final first needs to be negotiated, Talisca is focused on adding to Guangzhou's impressive tally of titles with a historic third AFC Champions League trophy the aim for the club, the team, and for the player himself.
"Above all, becoming a champion of Asia is my goal. It's why I am here."
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