Friday’s quarter-final of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 brings together the African champions TP Mazembe and their Asian counterparts Pohang Steelers. The respective sides, who are both making their debuts in the competition, will not be lacking motivation, as awaiting the winners in the next round will be none other than Copa Libertadores champions Estudiantes La Plata, one of the giants of South American football.
TP Mazembe-Pohang Steelers, Mohammad Ben Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Friday 11 December, 20:00 (local time)
Four-times Korean champions Pohang Steelers go into this competition firmly established as one of Asia’s top teams. They also have experience of facing African opposition in a major competition, having represented their continent in the now-defunct Afro-Asian Championship following their AFC Champions League successes in 1997 and 1998.
For all that, the South Koreans will not be underestimating TP Mazembe, who have won ten league titles, and five since the turn of the century. One of the strongest teams in Congo DR, Mazembe have now made five appearances in the CAF Champions League final, going all the way on three occasions, including their victory earlier this year.
The Steelers’ Brazilian coach, Sergio Farias, will be relying heavily on compatriot Denilson and his forward partner No Byung Jun, whose goals in the semi-final and final of the Asian Champions League 2009 helped earn him the player of the tournament award.
Meanwhile, his opposite number, Frenchman Diego Garzitto, is expected to have top scorer Mabi Mputu spearheading his attack, alongside Dioko Kaluyituka and Mulota Kabangu, in a bid to prise open the Koreans’ formidable defence.
7 – The number of goals scored by Mabi Mputu in Mazembe’s third CAF Champions League success this year. It was also the number scored by Denilson while helping Pohang Steelers to their third AFC Champions League title. Who will come out on top when the marksmen come face to face in Abu Dhabi?
“We’ve watched videos of several of Pohang’s games and some of my friends in Asia have given me advice. I know they’ve got some excellent players and Denilson on the right wing stands out,” Diego Garzitto, TP Mazembe coach.
“There are no easy teams in the Club World Cup. We don’t know much about Mazembe, but they must be good because of the teams they’ve beaten to get here. It will be a tough match but we intend to win it.” Denilson, Pohang Steelers striker.