by Simon Daish – Interviews conducted by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer and the ETTU
The test will be severe for Sporting with Orenburg expected to field the likes of Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Jun Mizutani and Vladimir Samsonov for the match but Portuguese hero João Monteiro isn’t fazed by the opposition and is confident that his team can come through the last four with a win.
“First of all we are very happy already to be among the best four teams in Europe this season. Despite this, we are all ambitious players and so our goal is to do everything within our power to take the club to the final, knowing that we will face the defending champion on the way to the final. Being in the semi-final has really improved our confidence…” João Monteiro
Competing in its first Champions League campaign it’s fair to say that Sporting has outperformed expectations, finishing in the runner up spot in a tough group and a strong quarter-finals display against Stella Sport La Romagne sealed the Portuguese club’s spot in the semi-finals of the competition.
Speaking to the ETTU, Sporting team manager Gonçalo Castanheira has hailed the club’s achievement, highlighting the opening group win against AS Pontoise-Cergy as a crucial result for the team’s amazing run.
“Although we were considered as the outsiders of the event we knew we could go far. From the beginning we believed that victory in all games was possible even though we were in the most difficult group that left us without any margin of error. The opening day in Pontoise was crucial. We knew that almost everything depended on how we started the race…” Gonçalo Castanheira
Sporting and Orenburg have already faced each other twice in the competition with both sides claiming a victory apiece and Gonçalo Castanheira believes his team can head into the 1st leg of the Champions League semi-finals with plenty of confidence.
“Now everything is possible. We have achieved the goals required so we have less pressure to be able to give the maximum game to game and to present our fantastic audience with highly emotive and spectacular games. Whatever happens now we will never take the eyes off the ball.” Gonçalo Castanheira