FIFA: TP Mazembe and Seongnam to meet big boys in semi-finals
The quarter-final stages have passed in this year’s FIFA Club World Cup with African champions TP Mazembe and Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma having made it through to the final four of the competition where they will meet South American champions Internacional and European champions Internazionale FC respectively.
TP Mazembe, champions of Africa for the past two seasons, faced up to the North & Central American champions Pachuca in their quarter-final match-up this weekend. Having defeated the Mexicans by a goal to nil, Mbenza Bedi scoring the only goal in the 21st minute, the Congolese side have already bettered their performance in last year’s tournament. Last time out Mazembe were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Pohang Steelers so this year represents further progress on the international stage although the club were disappointed not to win their domestic championship this year, losing out to AS Vita-Club by virtue of goal difference. Nonetheless for coach Lamine N’Diaye Tuesday’s encounter with this year’s Copa Libertadores champions Internacional of Porto Alegre will be an historic match for the club and they will want to upset the odds by becoming the first club from outside Europe or South America to participate in the final of this tournament.
The same goes for Asian club champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma who defeated United Arab Emirates representatives Al-Wahda by a much more comfortable scoreline of four goals to one. Mauricio Molina, Saša Ognenovski, Choi Sung-Kuk and Cho Dong-Geon scored the goals for the South Korean club who will compete in the semi-finals in their maiden appearance in this tournament. Their opponents on Wednesday are UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC who have struggled domestically in recent weeks having taken only five points from their last six Serie A games, their only victory coming against AC Parma a fortnight ago. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have completed their K-League season, losing in the 2nd round of the Championship play-offs and have only played in one competitive fixture since November 24th. For Seongnam’s coach Shin Tae-Yong Wednesday’s game is a real chance to upset the odds and they will hope that the Italians will have another off-day. Inter coach Rafael Benítez, however, has unfinished business in this tournament having been a runner-up with Liverpool FC in 2005 and success in this year’s competition could be the difference between keeping or losing his job.