Ambition consumed Adelaide United going into the AFC Champions League 2008. Having failed to advance beyond the group stage in their debut in the competition last year, however, few considered Aurelio Vidmar's charges among the title favourites.
But after upsetting the likes of Kashima Antlers and Bunyodkor to reach the final - and book a place at December's FIFA Club World Cup - Adelaide are determined to complete their inconceivable rise by stunning another giant, Japan's Gamba Osaka, whom they meet in the first leg of the continental decider tomorrow. "We have to stay positive," demanded Vidmar. "We have two of the biggest games in the club's history coming up, so we have to get it right for both matches."
Reds captain Travis Dodd, a prominent figure in his side's charge to the final, is well aware of the prestigious prize at stake: rubbing shoulders with the likes of Manchester United at Japan 2008 next month. "I think if we win the final we go straight into the quarter-final. And the winners might secure a place in the last four, possibly against Manchester United," he said. "It is a dream game but winning is also realistic."
Gamba, for their part, require victory to qualify for the forthcoming FIFA Club World Cup. Should they become Adelaide's latest victim, the distinction will befall the winners of the Japanese J.League 2008, which, with four rounds remaining, is being narrowly led by Kashima Antlers.
This circumstance amplifies the pressure on Gamba's shoulders. "We have a greater need to beat Adelaide as we haven't yet qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup," said dynamic midfielder Yasuhito Endo. "Thus we must defeat them as the global tournament is what we are aiming for."
Akira Nishino's side will be capitalise on home advantage on Wednesday, in what will be an intriguing duel between the free-scoring Japanese and the competition's meanest defence. Dodd certainly respects his team's opponents, who made light work of compatriots Melbourne Victory in the group stage, winning 4-3 away and 2-0 in Osaka.
"From their results against Melbourne we know Gamba are a very good attacking side, and they scored a lot of goals from set pieces," said the 28-year-old. "But we can find out their weaknesses and hopefully exploit them."
Endo is not underestimating the possibility of this transpiring. "Respect: that is what we need to give Adelaide," remarked the Japanese international. "We know little about them but we are not going to change our game. We are out to prove a point for Japanese football."
AFC Champions League final
5 November, Wednesday
Gamba Osaka (Japan) - Adelaide United (Australia)
12 November, Wednesday
Adelaide United (Australia) - Gamba Osaka (Japan)