FIFA: Club World Cup Team Guide – Al Sadd
AFC Champions League title holders Al-Sadd were the surprise winners of Asia’s premier club competition and will feature in their first FIFA Club World Cup. Al Sadd, who hail from the Qatari capital city of Doha, have a quarter-final meeting with African champions Espérance and, should they emerge victorious, will look forward to a semi-final encounter against FC Barcelona.
Their Asian Champions League campaign began with two play-off rounds to negotiate before reaching the group phase. Syrians Al-Ittihad (5-1) and Indian side Dempo FC (2-0) were put to the sword, allowing Al-Sadd to compete in a tough group containing Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia), Esteghlal (Iran) and Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan). The Qataris finished top of the group with ten points from six games and thus proceeded to a Round of 16 tie against Al-Shabab (Saudi Arabia) which they scraped through, winning by a solitary goal to nil. Al-Sadd were then given a helping hand in the quarter-finals following Iranian side Sepahan’s oversight in fielding an ineligible player in the first leg which the AFC awarded to Al-Sadd 3-0 before Sepahan gained back some respect in the second leg with a 2-1 score line but the damage had already been done. A fiery semi-final with South Korean side Suwon Bluewings went Al-Sadd’s way with a 2-1 aggregate victory before they met another side from the K-League, the dominant league in Asian football in recent years, in the form of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Al-Sadd looked like they were going to win the final in normal time but a late stoppage time goal from Seung-Hyun Lee took the match into extra-time which saw no further scoring. The game was, therefore, decided on penalties with Nadir Belhadj scoring the vital fifth spot kick for Al-Sadd who won 4-2 and claimed a first success in this competition since 1989.
Since Al-Sadd’s glorious triumph they have played four matches in the domestic championship, known as the Qatari Stars League, and have suffered a mixed bag of results. Wins against Al Ahli and Lekhwiya were tempered by defeats against Qatar Sports Club and Al Rayyan. With the club lying in fifth place in the 12 team league, five points behind league leaders Lekhwiya, things are far from terrible for the Qataris but they really must put up a good performance against Espérance if they are to get to the last four of the FIFA Club World Cup.
AL SADD v JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS – 2011 AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL