Guangzhou: Two-time AFC Champions League winner Elkeson believes his experience scoring goals against the Continent’s best for Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG can help push China PR towards the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Finals after the Brazil-born striker secured Chinese citizenship last month.
The 30-year-old has been included in Marcello Lippi’s squad for their upcoming Asian Qualifiers tie against the Maldives on Tuesday after being granted citizenship, becoming the first player without Chinese heritage to be selected to play for the country.
And after helping Guangzhou win the AFC Champions League title in 2013 and 2015 while also claiming four Chinese Super League titles – three with Guangzhou and one with Shanghai – he is confident he can boost China’s FIFA World Cup qualification hopes.
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“I believe I have an abundance of experience playing in Asian football,” he told the-AFC.com after last week's AFC Champions League quarter-final first leg draw with Kashima Antlers. “I’ve been here nearly seven years now and this experience will greatly help me when I play with the national team.
“I’ve worked with coach Lippi before for two years when he was coach of Guangzhou Evergrande. We know each other very well and I believe that this gives us confidence, not only for me but my teammates.
“I believe offensively I will bring a lot of different things for the China national team and hopefully we can, all of us together, achieve a good result with the national team.”
Elkeson’s goal scoring record since joining Guangzhou at the start of the 2013 season from Botafogo is impressive. He finished as the leading scorer in the Chinese Super League in his first season and his goals were instrumental in the club’s 2013 AFC Champions League win, despite only featuring from the quarter-finals onwards.
He was the league’s top scorer again in 2014 as Guangzhou claimed the title again and, in 2015, he was a key figure as Evergrande once again won both the league and the AFC Champions League.
His switch to Shanghai SIPG eventually yielded another Chinese Super League crown in 2018 before returning to Guangzhou, with the quarter-final first leg meeting with Kashima his first game in the competition with Evergrande since his move back to the southern Chinese city.
The decision to switch allegiance to China is one he discussed at length with his family back in Brazil before completing the formalities that should see him suit for Lippi’s team on Tuesday.
“I’m happy to have switched,” he said. “Before it happened I talked a lot with my parents and my family about the decision and we’re very happy with the decision.
“Over the last six years, almost seven years, in China I have dedicated all of my abilities, all of my efforts to helping Chinese football and I’m very happy to have this chance to play in the World Cup qualifiers.”
The Maldives represent China’s first test in Group A, which also features the Philippines, Syria and Guam, with Lippi’s team hopeful of securing a spot in the third phase of qualifying. That will kick off in September next year and feature 12 nations battling it out for the Continent’s places at the Qatar 2022 Finals.
“We believe we’re in a really strong group and there are going to be a lot of hard and important games, especially away from home and that starts with the next game,” said Elkeson.
“We believe in this national team that we have many young talents playing together, and we hope that they can show the same level of performance for the national team that they do in the Chinese Super League. We have to be prepared to play all of these difficult games.”
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