With a last-four encounter against UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea FC up for grabs, CF Monterrey and Ulsan Hyundai are preparing to go head-to-head on 9 December in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012.
Ahead of the teams’ eagerly anticipated opening game, Mexican outfit Monterrey are out to set the record straight after exiting at the same stage of Japan 2011. Yet they will need to have learned from their past mistakes if they wish to carry the CONCACAF flag a step closer to the title, with the reigning Asian champions sure to provide an extremely stern test.
Guided by coach Kim Ho Gon, Ulsan Hyundai go into Japan 2012 buoyed by the manner in which they lifted the AFC Champions League for the first time – a campaign which featured six consecutive wins in the knockout stages. The Tigers are not planning to rest on their continental laurels, however, and are determined to shine on the global stage too. A key element in their plan to do just that is the attacking prowess of Lee Keunho, who has been voted Asian Player of the Year for 2012.
Opponents Los Rayados, for their part, remain under the astute command of coach Victor Manuel Vucetich and the recently crowned CONCACAF champions have set their sights on improving on a lacklustre showing at Japan 2011. At last year’s showpiece, Vucetich’s men fell at their first hurdle, losing a penalty shoot-out to Kashiwa Reysol.
But having kept the same core of players that ended up finishing fifth last time out, Monterrey would love to outdo Necaxa’s performance from 2000 – when they became the only Mexican team to date to finish on the podium at a FIFA Club World Cup.
3 – The number of years since a CONCACAF side has kicked off their FIFA Club World Cup campaign with a win. Atlante were the last team to do so, beating Auckland City 3-0 in Abu Dhabi at UAE 2009. Come the following year’s edition, Pachuca went down to TP Mazembe and in 2011 Monterrey suffered the aforementioned shoot-out loss against Kashiwa Reysol.
"We know that ahead of us we’ve got a great competition and a magnificent opportunity to show the world our worth, our quality and what we’re capable of. We’re hoping to show all that right from the first game,” Ulsan Hyundai striker, Lee Keunho.
"This is a great opportunity for us to set the record straight. We’re coming to Japan with higher expectations than last year, no doubt about it. Monterrey are capable of becoming champions, and that’s what we’re aiming to do," Monterrey coach, Victor Manuel Vucetich.