Guangzhou captain Zheng eyes China revival

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Captain Zheng Zhi played a central role as China’s Guangzhou Evergrande won the 2013 AFC Champions League.

Captain Zheng Zhi played a central role as China's Guangzhou Evergrande won the 2013 AFC Champions League.

Victorious captain Zheng Zhi is hopeful Guangzhou Evergrande's AFC Champions League success can kick-start a revival of Chinese fortunes on the continental stage.

Guangzhou became the first Chinese side to be crowned continental champions since Liaoning won the 1990 Asian Club Championship last weekend after edging out Korean counterparts FC Seoul on away goals following a 3-3 draw on aggregate.

But with Shanghai Shenhua the last Chinese club to reach the quarter-finals in 2006 prior to Guangzhou's run to the same stage last year, Zheng is hopeful Super League clubs can now start to make more of an impact on the tournament.

"This shows the world that Chinese clubs are competitive in Asia and it should give Chinese clubs more confidence in the AFC Champions League," said Zheng, who helped Shandong Luneng reach the quarter-finals in 2005 before repeating the feat with Guangzhou last year.

"In recent years the winners of the AFC Champions League have been from either Japan or Korea, so hopefully our victory can have a positive impact for clubs in China.

"It is very difficult to win the AFC Champions League and I am sure that it brings joy to fans in Guangzhou and also the whole country. We are very happy as it is a historical moment."

Having won the Chinese Super League title for a third straight season, Guangzhou, along with Shandong, Beijing Guoan and Guizhou Renhe are set to represent China in the AFC Champions League next season.

Beijing reached the Round of 16 this year only to lose to eventual finalists FC Seoul, while Guizhou narrowly missed out on qualification from the group stage on their AFC Champions League debut.

"It was not easy to get to the final and win the AFC Champions League as it is a long season competition," added China international Zheng.

"One of the key elements in our victory was our desire to win to maintain the high level of competition.

"I hope that we can keep this style and standard of play and that the Guangzhou fans will keep supporting us."

Guangzhou face Beijing in the semi-finals of the FA Cup this month, with Guizhou waiting in the final, before Marcello Lippi's side take on African Champions League winners Al Ahly from Egypt in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December.

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