European champions F.C. Internazionale Milano are preparing to enter the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 fray at the semi-final stage against AFC Champions League holders Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma F.C.
The South Korean side already provided a demonstration of their attacking prowess in emphatically beating host-nation representatives Al-Wahda Sports Club 4-1 in their quarter-final. However, statistics from previous editions of this tournaments favour the European side, who will begin as firm favourites despite their indifferent recent form.
Seongnam Ilhwa FC – FC Internazionale Milano, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, Wednesday 15 December 2010, 21.00 (local time)
FC Internazionale Milano arrived in Abu Dhabi under severe pressure after the disappointment of defeats against Werder Bremen in the UEFA Champions League and Lazio in Serie A. However, the Italian champions remain a fearsome proposition and will be determined to add this trophy to the Italian Cup, Serie A, Champions League and Italian Super Cup crowns already lifted during 2010.
Indeed, I Nerazzurri are expected to line up with a clutch of their big-name stars including Dutch schemer Wesley Sneijder and Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o. “Eto’o is the player I fear most in the Italian side,” said Seongnam Ilhwa FC coach Shin Tae Yong, who is sure to ask his defence to keep a close watch on the prolific former Barcelona front-man.
The task of marking Eto’o is set to fall to AFC Player of the Year Sasa Ognenovski, the club’s influential Australian defender and captain, who scored his team’s crucial second goal against Al Wahda. Rafael Benitez’s charges will also have to prepare for the threat provided by Colombian attacking midfielder Mauricio Molina, scorer of one and supplier of two goals against the UAE champions.
3 - The number of matches between European and Asian clubs in the FIFA Club World Cup to date, with the UEFA representatives coming out on top on all three occasions. In a further bad omen for the Asian champions, Internazionale’s Italian rivals Juventus also put three past Seongnam at last year’s edition of the Peace Cup friendly tournament. Can the team from Gyeonggi-do province upset the odds to become the first AFC side to sink European opponents at this tournament?
“Internazionale are the best team in the world. They are the better team and we’re not in for an easy match. But our players are here to try and perform at their best and if they do I’m sure we’ll give them a good game. It'd be an extremely proud moment for us and the whole of Asia if we were to qualify for the final,” Shin Tae Yong, Seongnam Ilhwa FC coach.
“This match is like all cup matches, both teams involved have the same objective. Our first match could be our last but equally if we get a good result we’ll qualify for another final. We must play this game as if it’s the final, but we’re going to need to be fully focused if we’re to win and progress,” Rafael Benitez, FC Internazionale Milano coach.