After emerging victorious over Al Ahli in their play-off for the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009, Oceania outfit Auckland City now face CONCACAF top dogs Atlante in the last eight.
Auckland City-Atlante, Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Saturday 12 December, 20.00 (local time)
Up for grabs in this unpredictable battle of styles is no less a prize than a date with mighty Barcelona in Thursday's semi-final. Fresh from recording their first victory in the competition, having been beaten twice in two games at the Japan 2006 event, will the OFC Champions League holders’ rugged backline, hard-working midfield and willing forwards be enough to take them into the last four?
Atlante, for their part, would love to become the first Mexican side to reach the final of a FIFA Club World Cup, though two sizeable hurdles remain. Having not played a competitive match since 14 November, the CONCACAF Champions League winners will need to hit the ground running to outgun a physical Auckland line-up and earn that yearned-for semi-final duel with Josep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barça.
2 – Representatives from CONCACAF and the OFC have met on just two prior occasions at the FIFA Club World Cup, with Oceania sides yet to take the spoils. South Melbourne were beaten 3-1 by Necaxa at Brazil 2000, while at Japan 2005 Deportivo Saprissa edged a 1-0 win over Sydney FC.
“To be honest, I don’t know much about Atlante, but our assistant coach has already studied their play and he’ll let us know who their key men are. We’ve just got to give our all out on the pitch and try our very best. There’s no other alternative,” Jason Hayne, Auckland City player
“We’ve got to win one game to open the door to a semi-final against Barça. This is our key match, we really need to focus on this encounte,” Santiago Solari, Atlante winger