No club competing for the FIFA Club World Championship will have as strong a connection with host nation Japan as Oceania representatives Sydney FC. The Australian side currently counts Nippon legend Kazuyoshi Miura among its playing roster. Coach Pierre Littbarski, who spent many years in Japan firstly as a player with JEF United and Brummel Sendai and then a coach Yokohama FC, is another obvious link. 

Few people though remember Steve Corica's stint in the J-League. The nimble central midfielder, who has been integral part of the Sydney FC line-up in the inaugural A-League, spent two seasons in Japan at Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Originally, Corica moved to England from Australia in 1995 where he joined Leicester City for a short stint before hooking up with Wolves where he became a crowd favourite helping the club to the brink of promotion to the English Premier League on three occasions. But then he made the unusual move from the English midlands to the Far East due to the presence of the man who gave Corica his first cap for Australia - the late Eddie Thompson.

Playing mostly on the flanks, the Australian became a regular for Sanfrecce Hiroshima making 44 appearances and scoring 14 goals over two seasons before a return to England and three seasons with Walsall.

Old friends
And it was during this time when Corica's national team career turned around with Frank Farina recalling him for the Socceroos for the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in 2001 and the FIFA Confederations Cup played in Korea/Japan the same year. 

"I'm looking forward to going back there," says the 32-year-old. "It's been three years now since I've been back and I have a lot of friends in Japan so hopefully they will be turning up to support us.

"I think we will have a lot of support (in Japan), Kazu is a big name there and I'm sure he will bring in the fans. Pierre has played and coached there, I've played there and Matthew (Bingley) too so we'll get some support and am really looking forward to it."

Sydney FC qualified for Japan on the back of an 18-match unbeaten streak. They were victorious in the abbreviated Australian club championship and then triumphed in June's Oceania Club Championship in Tahiti, seeing off the challenge of New Caledonia's AS Magenta in the final.

Currently lying second in the Hyundai A-League, the club from Australia's largest metropolis will face the five other continental champions in solid form having lost just one of their last seven matches. Corica, who returned to his home country after a ten-year absence, is obviously impressed by the changes that have occurred in the Australian domestic competition.

"The A-League surprised me - I didn't expect it would be this good," he says. "The public have been coming out and watching the games and the standard has been really high as well.  With the likes of Dwight Yorke and Kazu coming in, and the overseas (Australian) players coming back as well, it has made the competition very strong and it is very even at the moment."

"Generally it has been a fantastic period for Australian football.  Making the World Cup after 30-odd years - it is going to be sensational to watch them play in Germany.

"And now with Sydney FC playing in the Club World Championship it is an exciting time not only for us players but also for the public."