Nelsinho set for Santos reunion at Club World Cup
Kashiwa Reysol's wily Brazilian coach Nelsinho Baptista will come face to face with his old employer Santos after the newly crowned Japanese champions held their nerve at the Club World Cup.
The 61-year-old tactician, who has made football history in Japan after sealing promotion to the J-League and then winning the title at the first attempt, had stints as a player and coach at the Brazilian giants.
After his players battled through to the semi-finals of the intercontinental championship with a nail-biting 4-3 win on penalties over Mexico's Monterrey on Sunday, he attempted to play down his association with Santos.
A full-back in his playing days, he said: "I do have history with Santos. Between 1978 and 1982 I was a player at Santos and we won the (league) title. I was also head coach of Santos, even if it was a short time.
"But I am now the head coach of Kashiwa. Of course I have affection for Santos but because of that I need to be very serious about playing them."
Kashiwa take on the Copa Libertadores winners Wednesday in Toyota, where the host side will be huge underdogs, although Nelsinho said he believed his men, though fatigued after a long season, could be "equal" with the right tactics.
His rapid transformation of the team from Chiba, near Tokyo, from second-tier also-rans to the best side in Japan has seen him lavished with praise in Japanese media for his "Nelsinho magic".
Asked by AFP what the secret of his monumental success was, Nelsinho, who speaks through an interpreter and has been at Kashiwa for two-and-a-half years, said: "I made a plan to reform the club and I've executed that plan.
"I use some humour and try to build a culture of victory. Playing in the Club World Cup was a big motivation to win the J-League (earlier this month) and this is a precious experience for all of us."
Kashiwa's flamboyant goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno was one of the heroes against CONCACAF champions Monterrey, saving their first penalty in the shoot-out, captain Luis Perez the unfortunate victim.
"The kicker could not look straight into my eyes and I knew he was hesitating. I responded well by staring at the opponent," said Sugeno, who has bleached blond hair.
"He might be considered superior, but I managed to outdo him mentally."
Sugeno insisted facing Santos was no big deal.
"Personally, there is no change in what I do, whether I face Santos or university students," he said. "It is difficult to make history but Reysol are doing it. We go for it whoever our opponents are."
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