The second quarter-final at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 reunites Sepahan and Urawa Red Diamonds at the Toyota Stadium, just a month after they locked horns in the Asian Champions League final. The Japanese team won on that occasion to lift the continental title, but the stakes will be very different this time around. The prize for the victor is none other than a mouth-watering semi-final showdown with European giants AC Milan.
Beaten in the Champions League final just a few weeks back, the Iranians will no doubt be eager to exact their revenge. But with a last-four berth against Milan on offer and the support of the locals to spur them on, Urawa will hardly be lacking in motivation themselves.
Despite a few problems with minor illness in the last few days, Sepahan go into the match with a full squad. Captain Nobuhisa Yamada and Tatsuya Tanaka are doubts for their opponents, on the other hand.
The two teams came face to face in the AFC Champions League final in November. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, in which Mahmoud Karimi cancelled out Robson Ponte's opener, Yuichiro Nagai and Yuki Abe gave Urawa a 2-0 victory in the return encounter.
Takahito Soma would surely love nothing more than to fire the Red Diamonds to victory on his 26 th birthday. A day later, team-mate Nobuhiro Kato will be blowing out 23 candles.
"We played extremely well in our two Champions League encounters but in the end we lost. We were unlucky, but now it's Urawa who are in a little trouble. They lost their Japanese championship title and got knocked out of the Emperor's Cup. That's why I think we have a good chance of beating them." Luka Bonacic (Sepahan coach)
"We know Sepahan very well and we know they're an excellent team. But we're perfectly aware of our own qualities and our chances of winning this match. We owe it to ourselves to win this game in front of our own fans. Playing against Milan in the semi-finals would be the best way to thank our supporters." Holger Osieck (UrawaRed Diamonds coach)