Evergrande ambitious despite tough draw

Updated: 2011-12-08 07:56

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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BEIJING - It won't be easy.

Guangzhou Evergrande doesn't care.

The big-spending Chinese Super League (CSL) champion still plans to advance in the 2012 AFC Champions League despite being drawn to the "Group of Death" on Tuesday.

The Cantonese club, which vowed to fight for a semifinal berth in its first AFC Champions League appearance after claiming the domestic league championship, was grouped with J-League champion Kashiwa Reysol, K-League champion Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and the winner of the yet-to-be-decided Thailand League.

Liu Yongzhuo, chairman of the club, said Evergrande will do its best to finish first in the group regardless of the competition.

"There is no good draw or bad draw - the most important thing for us is to qualify for the next round as No 1 of the group," Liu told Chinese newspaper Titan Sports. "To win soccer matches requires real strength, and we can start to make specialized preparation for the tournament from now on."

Captain Zheng Zhi said the players are eager to play.

"As long as we set our target to play the semifinal, we should be ready to play any opponents in the tournament," Zheng told Sina.com. "It might not be a bad thing to play the strongest early in the group. Our draw just says the matches of our group are true battles.

"Though, as a club, this is our first time playing in the AFC Champions League, we don't feel strange because a lot of players in the team have played Asian continental tournaments."

China's richest club invested more than 500 million yuan ($78.6 million) in the past year to lift the newly-promoted team to its first top-flight championship title. It is now reportedly in talks with Bayern Munich's Croatian striker Ivica Olic in a bid to realize its Champions League ambitions.

Evergrande will play the first group game against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in South Korea on March 7.

China Daily