Tenacious Asian champions Gamba Osaka plan to throw everything they have at Manchester United when they meet in the FIFA Club World Cup on Thursday. "They are the number one team in the world. We have nothing to lose," said Gamba and Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo. "I have seen videos of Manchester United games so many times. We will give all we have got," he said after their 1-0 victory over Adelaide United in the quarter-finals of the continental competition here on Sunday. "There is no other opportunity like this. All of us can be stars if we win," Endo added.
Gamba want to use the tournament as a springboard to become regular faces on the regional and international scene. But comparisons between Gamba and star-studded Manchester United are staggering. Aside from the skills, physicial strength and experience of individual players, the operational scale of the European giants overwhelms Gamba.
The Nikkan Sports newspaper printed an expected starting line-up of the two teams on Monday, and the estimated collective annual salary of the Red Devils stands tenfold above the income of Gamba players. With the daunting showdown ahead, Gamba coach Akira Nishino, who has led the team since 2002, reminded that Red Devils that they are human, including Sir Alex Ferguson, who has reigned supreme at Old Trafford since 1986.
"You say Ferguson, but I say he is a human too," Nishino told Nikkan Sports. "I want to think it shouldn't matter whether you are with Manchester United or Gamba. We want to face them without fear." Nishino said he would focus on preparing his team, rather than be overawed by the opposition. "With a few of our guys being forced out of the (Manchester) game due to injuries, we will suffer significant losses to our strength," Nishino said after the Adelaide game, in which several players picked up injuries.
"I cannot plan anything at this moment. Rather than thinking about Manchester, I want to focus on how well we prepare ourselve," he said. "But with one victory under our belt, I want us to enjoy this moment and have good preparations and go to Yokohama," he said.
The pressure is on Gamba as their J.League rivals Urawa Reds finished third in last year's tournament, won by Italian giants AC Milan, who beat Argentina's Boca Juniors. Japan Football Association chief Motoaki Inukai expressed high hopes for Gamba. "It would be good if Gamba played to make Manchester United serious," Inukai said. "Last year, we saw Urawa go against Milan. This year, Gamba face Man United. Those are serious matchups. It's like a dream for us."
South American champions Liga de Quito of Ecuador face Pachuca of Mexico in the other semi-final on Wednesday. The FIFA Club World Cup, first organised in its current form in 2005, is an extension of the old Intercontinental Cup contested by European and South American champion clubs.