The second-oldest team in Australia's A-League, Adelaide United were formed in 2003 to fill the vacancy left by the defunct Adelaide City Force in Australia's old National Soccer League. The new club played one season in the NSL before forming part of the revamped A-League in 2005. Already sporting a settled squad on their entry into the new competition, they dominated the league in 2005/06 under experienced coach John Kosmina, carrying off the premiership despite being knocked out in the finals series by the Central Coast Mariners.
Their status as premiers did, however, gain them entry into the 2007 AFC Champions League. Adelaide performed creditably on their first Asian sojourn but finished third in their group, behind China's Shandong Luneng and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of Korea Republic. Back home, the Reds put in another excellent showing in the league in 2006/07, this time reaching the league's grand final, where they were comfortably beaten by Melbourne Victory. In the course of the season, the club featured a distinguished guest in the shape of Brazilian legend Romario, who played four games for the Reds.
Their presence in the grand final meant another crack at Asia in 2008, and this time, under young coach Aurelio Vidmar, they grasped the opportunity with both hands. After edging out China's Changchun Yatai in their opening group, they posted historic aggregate wins over Japanese giants Kashima Antlers and ambitious Uzbeks Bunyodkor, before succumbing to the greater flair of Gamba Osaka in the 2008 AFC Champions League final.
The fact that the Champions League was won by a Japanese club, however, has meant that Adelaide have qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup as the highest-placed non-Japanese team in Asian club competition. Adelaide are not the first club to have competed at the prestigious club showpiece; that honour belongs to South Melbourne, who took part in Brazil in 2000. But the Reds' qualification for the tournament after the rigours of an Asian club campaign has justly been hailed as a remarkable achievement for a club only five years old.
Although the veteran defensive duo of Sasa Ognenovski and Angelo Costanzo were pivotal to Adelaide's superb run in the Champions League, there are younger talents emerging at the club as well, including combative left-back Scott Jamieson, versatile midfielder Kristian Sarkies, and Australian U-19 intenational defender Daniel Mullen. Adelaide's captain, Travis Dodd, has already scored two hat-tricks in the AFC Champions League and has been targeted by richer clubs on the continent.
In their AFC Champions League campaign, Adelaide played 12 games, winning six, drawing three and losing three (two of which were the two legs of the final against Gamba Osaka). They scored 14 goals, and conceded nine.
The numbers game
4 - the number of goals Adelaide had conceded in their ten-game AFC Champions League campaign, prior to their 5-0 aggregate loss to Gamba Osaka.