Debutants Cerezo handed Asian final shot
© AFP

Rags-to-riches AFC Champions League debutants Cerezo Osaka were gifted the chance to host the Asian showpiece's glittering finale when the draw was made today for the closing stages.

But Cerezo, who stunned much-decorated city rivals Gamba Osaka to reach the last eight, will have to beat 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors, and either Saudi giants Al Ittihad or K-League title-holders FC Seoul, to reach the decider.

"I think we have a chance to go in to the finals," said team official Akira Hasegawa. "I believe in our team. Under the guidance of Brazilian coach Levir Culpi I believe we have a chance to win the Champions League."

Iran's Sepahan were drawn against Qatari outfit Al Sadd and Korea Republic's Suwon Bluewings will face Zobahan, also of Iran, in the other quarter-finals to be played over two legs on 14, 27 and 28 September. The winner of the second semi-final drawn - either Cerezo, Jeonbuk, Al Ittihad or FC Seoul - was given the right to host the final on either 4 or 5 November.

I believe in our team. Under the guidance of Brazilian coach Levir Culpi I believe we have a chance to win the Champions League.
Akira Hasegawa, Cerezo Osaka team official

Al Ittihad registered back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005 but the continental title has since resided in East Asia after victories by Jeonbuk Motors, Urawa Red Diamonds, Gamba Osaka, Pohang Steelers and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

"It's going to be difficult for us - we only have two strikers and one is injured," said Bluewings general manager Lee Ho-Seung. "We need to find at least two to three new strikers. We are looking for foreign players. I heard the two Iranian clubs are strong. I'm not confident of winning the title."

Al Sadd were also sizing up the nightmare task of having to beat Iran's Sepahan, followed by Zobahan or Korea's Bluewings, and then win the one-off final away from home. "It will be tough for us all the way," said sports director Mohamad Dulam Al-Boloushi.

AFC general secretary Alex Soosay said there had been a slight drop in crowd numbers during the group stages compared to last year. But he expected attendance to be "overwhelming" as the competition climaxes.