The 2010 FIFA Club World Cup is heating up in the United Arab Emirates.
Al-Wahda Sports Club, takes on South Korea’s Asian Champions League winners Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in quarterfinals on Saturday. The winner will face-off against European Champions League winners Inter Milan next Wednesday (Dec. 15). Inter Milan is loaded with stars such as Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o and is the favorite to win the event but has been playing poorly of late.
Al-Wahda beat Oceania champion Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United 3-0 in a play-in game in order to meet Seongnam. Brazilians Fernando Baiano and Higo, along with Abdulraheem Jumaa, earned the goals for the host team.
The Abu Dhabi-based club and UAE champions, will face a tougher game against Seongnam, which is led by Asian Player of the Year, Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski. Ognenovski captained his club to win the AFC Champions League in Tokyo last month with a 3-1 victory over Iran’s Zob Ahan.
Ognenovski played at the finals two years ago.
“I’ve played there with Adelaide United [at Japan 2008],” the giant center-half told FIFA.com. “It’s a fantastic tournament to be involved in. Even for the younger players, it will be an amazing experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the Club World Cup and play against the top five clubs in the world.”
This is Seongnam’s first visit to the Cup and arguably the biggest game in the team’s history. A win over Al Wahda and a chance to play Inter Milan, would certainly put the club on the international soccer radar.
African champion TP Mazembe of DR Congo, play CONCACAF champion CF Pachuca of Mexico in the other quarterfinal game, on Friday. The winner plays South American champion Internacional of Brazil in the semifinals. Pachuca has been to the Club World Cup three times and on paper looks to be the favorite to advance to face the tough Brazilian team
For Inter Milan the event is crucial for its coach Rafael Benitez, whose future is on the line after the club’s lost 3-0 to Werder Bremen on Tuesday in the Champions League. Failure to win the event in Abu Dubai could spell the end of the road for Benitez.
“I don’t want to create problems before or during the World Club Cup,” said Inter Milan owner Massimo Moratti according to Reuters. “Afterwards we’ll see. Benitez must have character because if not, we won’t win the World Club Cup.”
The winners of the Cup received $5 million, the second-placed team takes $4 million, the third-placed team $2.5 million, the fourth-placed team $2 million, the fifth-placed team $1.5 million, the sixth-placed team $1 million and the seventh-placed team received $500,000.
Barcelona won last year’s event.
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