- Hulk is topping the AFC Champions League goalscoring list
- Brazilian striker has played key role as Shanghai SIPG reached last four
- *Club aiming for maiden title and FIFA Club World Cup appearance *
For many Asian fans, Hulk is indeed incredible.
It is no big surprise that the Brazilian striker is topping the goal-scoring chart in this year's AFC Champions League with nine goals for semi-finalists Shanghai SIPG, considering how dominant some of his compatriots have proven to be on the Asian scene down the years. It is, however, the fashion in which he has played and scored that has left viewers in awe.
Deployed as either a centre-forward or winger, Hulk is at times seemingly unstoppable. Besides his fine possession and powerful shots, the burly goal-getter boasts superb pace and skills which makes him a defender's worst nightmare. He has also provided seven assists thus far to boost the club’s hopes of a maiden Asian title. Excelling as he is, though, Hulk told *FIFA.com *that his best form is yet come.
"Judging from the numbers, it is not my best season," said the 31-year-old, who made his name with FC Porto winning ten major titles across four seasons, before making waves in Russia with Zenit Saint Petersburg. "I had better statistics with former clubs. But I always try to do my best and, in this regard, this year has also been a good one."
Modest though he may be, but Hulk has produced a series of stellar displays as Shanghai progressed beyond the group phase in only their second continental appearance. Indeed, he scored in each game including netting the only goal against FC Seoul as Shanghai secured three opening wins, results which laid the foundation for knockout-stage progression.
He would maintain such an impressive work-rate during the knockout phase, with his goals and assists helping Shanghai eliminate an in-form Jiangsu Suning in the Round of 16. Awaiting them next were none other than two-time Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande but Hulk's form again proved eye-catching, as he scored one and set up another two as they stunned their big-name rivals 4-0 in the first leg.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's side did briefly bounced back in the return, leading 4-0 to draw themselves on level terms on aggregate. But Hulk again proved the difference in extra time, striking late to put his side in front. Guangzhou again equalised but Hulk and Co. forced the penalty shoot-out, where they kept their cool to prevail in an epic contest.
"We had a hard route to this stage," said Hulk reflected on their testing continental campaign. "We beat two strong C League teams in the knockout stage, particularly Guangzhou, a dominant side in both China and Asia. So we are very confident for what is still to come."
*Urawa test *
J.League giants and 2007 Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds are the next sizeable hurdle for Shanghai SIPG to overcome. "I have had experiences of playing in Japan," Hulk said, citing his stints with Kawasaki Frontale and Tokyo Verdy early in his early career. "I observed how much Japanese football has developed in those years. Japanese players have good football qualities and Urawa Red Diamonds is one of the greatest Japanese teams. They are very strong playing at home.
"But our team are in a good way and in form. I have seen the team improve a lot since I arrived here. We are a united and competitive group. I want to win titles with Shanghai. This is my major goal at the moment, but of course I would be very happy if I am called back to the national team," he concluded with a smile.