Al-Wahda Sports Club can already tick off two of their campaign objectives by having reached the quarter-finals. Their play-off success over Hekari United FC took them a step further than fellow Abu Dhabi side Al Ahli could manage last year and, just as importantly, gave the locals a victory to cheer. They will need to steel themselves for a much sterner test against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC though, with the Asian champions desperate to pull rank and set up a prestigious semi-final against FC Internazionale Milano.
The dream for every athlete in any discipline is to be able to test themselves against the best, so expect passion and commitment aplenty when these two teams compete for the right to face UEFA Champions League holders Internazionale in the last four. United Arab Emirates champions Al Wahda are already up and running after seeing off Hekari United in their play-off for the quarter-finals, but the 3-0 scoreline in that game flattered the victors somewhat. As the club’s Austrian coach Josef Hickersberger warned: “If we play like that against Seongnam, we’ll have no chance.”
Indeed, while their opponents will be appearing on this stage for the first time, they arrive boasting significantly more big-game experience and quality in their ranks than Al Wahda encountered last time out. Regular competitors in the AFC Champions League and boasting several internationals in their squad, Korea Republic side Seongnam Ilhwa FC hope to fare at least as well as their compatriots Pohang Steelers, who finished third last year.
30 – The three players who found the net for Al Wahda against Hekari United are all aged 30 or over, with Hugo 30 and Fernando Baiano and Abdulraheem Jumaa both 31. Will their experience prove telling against a young and dynamic Seongnam line-up boasting an average age of 25 and five months?
"The most important objective was to get past our first match. We’ve done that and we celebrated it, but now we have to put that joy behind us and focus on being ready to face Seongnam,” Ismaeil Matar, Al Wahda striker.
"We’re not over-confident. Al Wahda are here because they’re UAE's champions. They’ve got the support of the public behind them and they’re used to the conditions. That’ll give them an advantage. We’ll need to be cautious because we’re expecting a very difficult match,” Shin Tae-Yong, Seongnam Ilhwa FC coach.