Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Oceania: New Zealand defeat Tahiti to claim FIFA place

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on January 19, 2011

OFC logoThe OFC Under-17 Championship final has been won by tournament hosts New Zealand for the fourth time in the nation’s history following their 2-0 win against Tahiti. A 2-0 scoreline was also sufficient for the Solomon Islands to claim third place in their play-off against Vanuatu.

Both of the goals came in the first half for New Zealand who have won the last three tournaments all at the expense of today’s opponents Tahiti. Cameron Howieson gave the All Whites the lead after just seven minutes with the lead doubled on 36 minutes through Tim Payne. The third place play-off also saw two first half goals as Solo Kuki (13 minutes) and Harrison Mala (26) ensured that the Solomon Islands finished the tournament on a high against Vanuatu even if they were playing merely for pride.

New Zealand’s reward for winning the tournament is to gain the solitary OFC berth in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup later this year in Mexico.

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OFC: New Zealand and Tahiti to contest third consecutive final

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on January 17, 2011

OFC LogoThe final of the 2011 OFC Under-17 Championship will be played out for the third consecutive competition between New Zealand and Tahiti. Both teams qualified with a 100% record from their groups whilst Vanuatu and Solomon Islands will fight it out for pride in the 3rd/4th play-off which, like the final, takes place on Wednesday.

New Zealand expectedly came away from Group A with four wins over Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and American Samoa. The hosts, looking for a fourth title win in this competition following triumphs in 1997, 2007 and 2009, scored thirteen goals and conceded just one on their way to the final. In Group B winners Tahiti, who also completed the group phase with four wins out of four managed to defeat Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Cook Islands and Tonga scoring one less and conceding one more than their final opponents did.

Solomon Islands will feature in the 3rd/4th play-off against Vanuatu who performed well in the tournament with only a 5-1 reverse at the hands of New Zealand standing between them and a place in the final. In stark contrast Tonga suffered the ignominy of conceding a massive 46 goals in just four games including a 17-0 hammering in their final group game today against New Caledonia.

Both the final and 3rd/4th play-off will be played at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland on Wednesday.

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Oceania: Lautoka go top in goalless draw against champions

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on January 15, 2011

OFC Champions League logoFijian champions Lautoka FC have gone top of Group A in the O-League, the elite club competition for clubs in the Oceania region, with a goalless draw against defending champions Hekari United.

This game had initially been postponed due to Hekari United’s involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup in December. Played in front of an expectant crowd in Lautoka the hosts were already top of the group before the game having a better goal difference than nearest challengers Amicale FC but Hekari United were hoping to establish their credentials with a win that would have them tied on three points along with the top two. However things wouldn’t work out like that as both teams cancelled each other out in a goalless stalemate. The result means Lautoka are the only unbeaten team in the group with seven points from three games, one more than Amicale whilst Hekari United will need to perform the sort of heroics which saw them win a maiden O-League title last season as they currently have four points. Koloale FC from the Solomon Islands prop up the rest of the table with just a solitary point to their name.

The next round of matches in the O-League will be played on February 4-5 with top playing bottom in Group A, Lautoka facing off against Koloale FC whilst Hekari face a tough match away at Amicale FC. In Group B the two New Zealand teams Auckland City and Waitakere United face away trips to AS Magenta (New Caledonia) and AS Tefana (French Polynesia) respectively.

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Oceania: Under-17 Championship gets under way

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on January 9, 2011
New Zealand U-17

Hosts New Zealand are the current champions

In much the same way as the CAF African U-17 Championship is taking place at the moment in Rwanda, the Oceania version of the event also began this weekend in New Zealand. Fiji were the big winners putting nine goals past a hapless American Samoa. New Zealand are the big favourites to win the 13th edition of the competition which has only ever been won by two countries. The only other team to have tasted success in this tournament, namely Australia, no longer takes part in the competition since moving over to the Asian Football Confederation.

New Zealand don’t begin their campaign until tomorrow therefore allowing the other four teams in Group A to try and get ahead of the three-time champions. Fiji opened their campaign in fine style by putting nine goals without reply past American Samoa. The surprising thing is that America Samoa, the expected whipping boys in the group, were only 2-0 down at the half-time break but they then allowed their opponents to run riot against them, shipping another seven goals in the process. Seven players scored for the Fijians with only one of them, Akram Hussain, scoring twice. The other game in the group was a much more competitive affair with Vanuatu getting the better of Papua New Guinea with a 2-0 scoreline. Santino Mermer grabbed the opening goal for Vanuatu with just four minutes of the first half remaining before Michel Coulon sealed the win on the hour mark.

Both of the opening Group B matches took place today with Tahiti giving their opponents Tonga a good pasting whilst, in a tighter contest, Solomon Islands emerged as narrow winners over New Caledonia. Two-time runners-up Tahiti got their campaign off to a fantastic start, winning 8-0 against Tonga with Tevairoa Tehuritaua getting his name on the score sheet on no fewer than four occasions. Tonga, playing in their maiden qualifying tournament at this level, were simply no match for their more experienced adversaries. Solomon Islands had Atana Fa’arodo’s 65th minute strike to thank for separating them from New Caledonia in a evenly balanced contest. In the end Solomon Islands won 2-1 and will expect to be up against Tahiti for the group leadership.

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Australia: Brisbane roar their way to top of the league

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on December 31, 2010
Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar are top of the Hyundai A-League at the moment

Australia’s Hyundai A-League has been unusually competitive this season, mainly due to the ineptitude of the reigning champions coupled with the inconsistency of the A-League’s most successful team since records began. Brisbane Roar, rather than Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory, are in pole position after the Christmas schedule and with the Play-Offs soon to come Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the situation with just weeks of the regular season remaining.

The big success story so far in the 2010-11 Hyundai A-League is the Brisbane Roar who have had a dramatic change of fortune. Having finished in ninth place out of ten teams in last season’s championship, the team from Australia’s third city have stormed their way to the top of the table having accumulated 48 points in 23 games. Brisbane have achieved this by virtue of having the best attack in the league having scored 43 goals so far, seven more than Adelaide United who lie in second place, and also by letting in a mere 20 goals in return with Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets, both of whom have currently played three fewer games, having a better defensive record (both have conceded 18 goals each). New Zealander Kosta Barbarouses and Costa Rican Jean Carlos Solórzano have bagged nineteen goals between them and make up the league’s most potent duo. This has helped the club as the Roar have only lost one game so far helping them to their eight point lead at the top of the table.

In contrast last season’s champions Sydney FC have gone down to their worst season ever having only won four of their twenty-two games this season and lie bottom of the table with just a point separating them from North Queensland Fury. It took the defending champions until week 11 to record their first win of the season and they have lost their last five games in a row to ensure that the club has a lot to do if they are to make the top six play-offs. Two-time champions Melbourne Victory have also struggled to some degree this season but seem to be finding form at exactly the right time of the season. Having recorded just four wins in the first 17 games the Victory have dropped only two points in their last five games (a 3-3 draw against the league leaders) and the run has helped the A-League’s most successful team to a respectable fifth place, five points ahead of new local rivals Melbourne Heart. The Victory suffered a defeat in the first ever derby match between the two sides and Melbourne Heart (played 23; points 27) can take comfort in that they have a great chance of making it to the post-season but they are being challenged by New Zealand’s sole representatives Wellington Phoenix who lie just a point behind with a game in hand as it stands. Newcastle Jets also have a great chance of the play-offs as they lie a further point behind with three games in hand.

One aspect of the league that has disappointed many this season is the crowds. The average number of people coming through the turnstiles has decreased so far with eight of the league’s eleven teams showing a decline in support with only Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets showing an increase whilst Melbourne Heart have no comparative fugures as they are in their first year in Australia’s top flight. Nonetheless the Play-Offs should provide an opportunity for the attendance figures to rise sharply especially as they look set to be the most open post-season fixtures since the league’s inception in 2005-06 season. Brisbane Roar will make it to the post-season and joining them, as it stands, will be Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Gold Coast United and the two Melbourne clubs but there are still a lot of games to be played from now until mid-February when the real action really starts Down Under.

New Zealand: Waitakere running away with it at the halfway stage

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on December 19, 2010
Waitakere United

Waitakere United are dominating the ASB Premiership this season

The ASB Premiership, New Zealand’s flagship football competition, is at the halfway point in the 2010-11 season and for defending champions Waitakere United the signs are currently good. Seven games into the season and Waitakere have an eight point lead over nearest challengers Team Wellington as they have shown the rest of the league that they are far and away the best team in the competition at the moment.

The champions have won all seven of their ASB Premiership games so far including today’s 2-0 away win at last season’s losing finalists Canterbury United. Both goals were scored in the first half with Roy Krishna opening United’s account after fifteen minutes, taking his season’s tally of goals up to four. Christopher Bale doubled the lead with ten minutes to go before the break and the champions never looked back from there. Team Wellington won 5-0 at home to Otago United – Hicham Kamri bagging a brace with John Sutherland, Darren Cheriton and Emiliano Tade getting the others – to keep up the chase on the league leaders. Auckland City have had a difficult season so far but they at least ended the calendar year on a high winning 5-0 at home to Hawke’s Bay United, Adam McGeorge helping himself to a hat-trick. They consolidated third place in the standings increasing their advantage over Canterbury United to four points.

In the bottom half of the table bottom club YoungHeart Manuwatu finally registered their first win of the season beating Waikato FC 5-2. Michael White scored a hat-trick for the hosts who hadn’t even chalked up a point in the standings before today. With both Team Wellington and Otago United losing the win helped YoungHeart narrow the gap between themselves and the two teams above them to four points. The next round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of January 8-9 with Waitakere United at home to Otago United, play-off hopefuls Canterbury United against last season’s Minor Premiers Auckland City, second place Team Wellington visit YoungHeart Manuwatu and Waikato FC face Hawke’s Bay United as the business end to the regular season will begin in earnest.

FIFA: Internazionale are world champions

FIFA Club World Cup 2010 logoUEFA Champions League holders Internazionale FC of Milan are the new FIFA Club World Cup winners having defeated surprise package TP Mazembe of Africa by a 3-0 scoreline in Abu Dhabi this evening. Goals from Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o and late substitute Jonathan Biabiany sealed the deal for the Nerazzurri and gifted coach Rafael Benítez with his second trophy as coach of the Milanese giants having won the Italian Super Cup at the start of the season.

The game was always going to be an historic occasion in world football irrespective of the result as it saw a team from outside Europe and South America compete in the final for the very first time. CAF African Champions League holders TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo had already exceeded the expectations of their fans by reaching the semi-finals having beaten CONCACAF Champions League winners Pachuca CF in the quarter finals. Beating Copa Libertadores champions Internacional of Brazil in the semi-finals, on the other hand, was something extraordinary for a team who have captured the imagination of fans around the world for their compact style of play and wonderful goal celebrations, most notably from their goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba.

For Internazionale the objective was simple; avoid humiliation. Coach Benítez was present in the stadium to see TP Mazembe defeat Internacional and certainly didn’t underestimate his opponents. Nonetheless the game started off well enough for his team going two up in the first twenty minutes. Goran Pandev gave the Nerazzurri the lead as early as the 13th minute after Samuel Eto’o had played him through the middle allowing the Macedonian to stab the ball home from close range. Cameroonian Eto’o would double Inter’s advantage just four minutes later after firing home from the edge of the penalty box following Javier Zanetti’s pullback from the byline. With such an advantage so early in the game many people were hoping that the Africans wouldn’t be on the end of a rout and, mercifully for Mazembe, Diego Milito didn’t have the same scoring qualities as some of his colleagues tonight as he missed two great chances in the first half to all but end the game as a contest.

The second half began with Inter controlling possession as they made the Africans work to win the ball back. Once the clock had reached the hour mark, however, Mazembe finally began to see some of the ball and began, little by little, to create chances. The worst offender in front of goal for the Congans was Dioko Kaluyituka who had his team’s three best chances of the game but was unable to find the back of the net. Not only did he see a shot blacked late in the first half but he rounded Julio Cesar in the 75th minute only to miscontrol the ball. Five minutes later Kaluyituka shot from very close range towards Cesar, the Brazilian palming the ball away to safety with the Africans regretting the fact that they never seemed to get the bounce of the ball throughout the game. The crowd, many of whom were fans of Internacional who had seen their team claim third place with a 4-2 win over Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the earlier game, were raising the noise levels encouraging Mazembe to score. Sadly for them, in the 85th minute, substitute Jonathan Biabiany, who had been on the pitch for fifteen minutes, beat the offside trap following a wonderful pass from Dejan Stanković and rounded Kidiaba to make it 3-0 and begin the celebrations on the Internazionale bench.

The win for Internazionale FC means that European teams have won the last four editions of this competition following triumphs for FC Barcelona, Manchester United and AC Milan. Taking into account all of the previous finals in all other guises of the competition, Europe and South America are now tied with 25 wins each. For TP Mazembe their objective is to win the CAF champions League for a third successive year, something which has never been achieved in the African football’s elite club competition, and try to emulate this year’s acheivements when the tournament returns to Japan in 2011.

Club World Cup: A History

FC Barcelona FIFA Club World Cup

FC Barcelona won the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009

The FIFA Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi on Saturday sees European champions Internazionale of Milan face up to their history-making African counterparts TP Mazembe from the Congolese second city of Lubumbashi. Since coming under outright official FIFA control in 2005, the Club World Cup includes all of the seven continental champions fighting it out to become officially the world’s best club side. However for many years the notion of a world club tournament was confined only to the champions of Europe and South America with the tournament having taken plenty of knocks before becoming the respected competition that it is today. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the history of an often controversial, yet thrilling tournament.

The tournament began in 1960 following an invitation to the inaugural Copa Libertadores champions Peñarol to play against European champions Real Madrid, who had just sealed their fifth consecutive win in the European Champions Cup in what was dubbed the “Match of the Century” against Eintracht Frankfurt. The Spanish giants showed their Uruguayan opponents who was boss as los Blancos, following a goalless draw in Montevideo, duly swept Peñarol aside 5-1 to become the first world champions. At least Peñarol would have the chance to get revenge six years later when the two sides met again with the Uruguayans coming out on top having won both home and away with a 2-0 scoreline. Inbetween those games Brazilian side Santos FC, including a certain player by the name of Pelé, and Italians Internazionale FC went on to win back-to-back triumphs in a competition which was starting to gain much importance to those who took part.

Racing Club v Celtic

Racing Club play Celtic in 1967

So much so that the event began to gain an ugly side as the late 1960s approached with Estudiantes de La Plata the worst offenders as they were involved in brutal matches against Manchester United (1968), AC Milan (1969) and Feyenoord Rotterdam (1970). Their violent approach won them no friends but it at least won them the trophy in that first final against United. Following those encounters the event would suffer due to future European champion teams refusing to enter the competition with a succession of runners-up having to take their place. Ajax Amsterdam, who won the European Champions’ Cup from 1971-73, only entered the 1972 event which they won against Independiente, leaving it up to Panathinaikos and Juventus FC to represent Europe in 1971 and 1973 respectively (both of whom lost). The only club to win the Intercontinental Cup without winning their continental title is Atlético de Madrid who, having lost to FC Bayern München in the 1974 European Cup final, took the Bavarians’ place against Independiente that year and won 2-1 on aggregate. The event continued to suffer in the late 1970s with no competition being played at all in the years of 1975 and 1978 whilst in the remaining years only FC Bayern would represent Europe as its champion in 1976 when they defeated Cruzeiro 2-0 on aggregate. The last two finals of the decade saw Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977) and Malmö FF (1979) take part as losing European finalists replacing English clubs Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest respectively, both of whom refused to play due to scheduling problems. Perhaps this was why those two finals were the last ones to be played in a two-legged format. They also represented a power shift towards the South Americans.

FC Porto

FC Porto won their first title in 1987

Following success for Boca Juniors (1977) and Olimpia Asuncion (1979) the tournament became sponsored by the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota and became known as the Toyota Cup in a single match format played in Tokyo with appearance money helping to encourage all future European champions’ participation. But the success kept coming for South America who secured their best run in this tournament with seven consecutive wins from 1977-84 with the likes of Nacional, Peñarol, Flamengo, Grêmio and Independiente getting their hands on the trophy. The biggest losers at this time were the English who lost out in four of those seven finals including Liverpool who were lost out twice in this competition. Juventus stemmed the tide in 1985 beating Argentinos Juniors in the first final to be decided by a penalty shoot-out but River Plate would win it again for South America twelve months later with a 1-0 win over surprise European champions Steaua Bucharest. FC Porto and Nacional traded wins in 1987 and 1988 before Europe would begin to restore some pride with three wins going into the 1990s. AC Milan won consecutive trophies in 1989-90 while Crvena Zvezda ended a successful 1991 with an easy 3-0 win over Colo Colo. The next three years saw a swift return back to South American dominance with Sao Paulo claiming back-to-back titles over FC Barcelona and AC Milan in 1992-93 followed by another defeat for the Italians against Argentinians Velez Sarsfield in 1994.

The Europeans would go on to enjoy the lions share of success in the last decade of the Toyota Cup winning eight of the last ten matches under the one-off match format. Only Boca Juniors tasted success for the CONMEBOL confederation between 1995-2004 with no fewer than seven different clubs lifting the trophy for Europe, Real Madrid CF being the only team amongst them to lift the trophy twice in this period. Following FC Porto’s second triumph in 2004 the competition was finally discontinued as FIFA had finally managed to follow up on its inaugural Club World Championship of 2000 – a competition won by Corinthians against compatriots Vasco da Gama in arguably the most boring cup final ever played – and had opened the tournament to winners of the various continental federations to create a truly global competition.

Since the FIFA Club World Cup, as the tournament is presently known, began in 2005 the honours have been evenly shared between Europe and South America. Sao Paulo became world champions for a third time in that year following a tightly fought final against the unfortunate Liverpool FC who lost for a third time in their history. Internacional kept up Brazilian success in 2006 with a narrow 1-0 over FC Barcelona but the Europeans have won the next three competitions with wins for AC Milan (who are the record winners of this tournament in any guise with four victories), Manchester United and for the present holders FC Barcelona who, after three attempts, finally got their hands on the trophy having come from behind to beat Estudiantes de La Plata in last year’s final.

The 2010 FIFA Club World Cup will see a team from outside Europe and South America compete in the final for the very first time. TP Mazembe, four times champions of Africa, upset the odds in beating South American champions SC Internacional in the semi-finals and will meet UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC tomorrow. The Italians are favourites to win the tournament for a third time, forty-five years after their last success, but TP Mazembe are a side who are good at counter attacking and will hope to keep the Nerazzurri at bay for long periods. All in all a fascinating clash of styles awaits and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks forward to a history-making final.

FIFA: Al-Wahda further local interest with victory over Hekari United

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on December 8, 2010

Abu Dhabi stadiumThe FIFA Club World Cup began in Abu Dhabi today with host club Al-Wahda securing their berth in the quarter-finals of the competition following a 3-0 win over underdogs Hekari United.

The tournament is being held for the second year running in the United Arab Emirates. Following the disappointment of national representatives Al-Ahli in last year’s competition, in which they lost 2-0 to Oceania champions Auckland City, Al-Wahda were determined not to suffer the ignominy of going out in the preliminary round and further local interest in this year’s tournament. Al-Wahda’s opponents were Hekari United who came to the Middle East with the status of massive underdogs following their against all odds triumph in the 2009-10 OFC O-League, in which they defeated two-time champions Waitakere United in the final, and guaranteed themselves a shot at the big time. Alas they found it tough going against the home side who were, admittedly, made to work hard for their 2-0 lead going into the half-time break. Goals from Brazilian duo Hugo and Fernando Baiano came in the last five minutes before the break and meant that the Papua New Guinea team would need a miracle to turn it around in the second half.

Sadly for Hekari, despite their greater possession, they were unable to score and they were made to rue their profligacy in front of goal. Al-Wahda just had that little bit more extra quality which made the difference and so it proved when Abdulrahim Jumaa scored the third goal with twenty minutes still to play. With only two yellow cards shown all game, one for each team, the South African referee Daniel Bennett would’ve been pleased to have such a quiet game to preside over.

Hekari United certainly didn’t disgrace themselves and can hold their heads high as they get back to normal business in January, hoping to defend the OFC O-League in order to qualify for this competition again next year. As for Al-Wahda, following a good performance, they will find it tougher in their quarter-final match-up against Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma which will be played on Saturday, twenty-four hours after the first quarter-final which pits African champions TP Mazembe against North & Central American champions Pachuca CF.

 

FIFA: Club World Cup 2010 Preview

FIFA Club World CupFor the second year running the FIFA Club World Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates and it looks like being yet another thrilling competition. Last year saw 2008-09 UEFA Champions League holders FC Barcelona narrowly edge out 2009 Copa Libertadores winners Estudiantes de La Plata with the Catalans needing extra-time to defeat their illustrious Argentinian opponents. This year it is expected that this truly “international” tournament will prove to be so with 2009-10 UEFA Champions League winners FC Internazionale Milano face off against their South American counterparts Internacional of Porto Alegre. But there are five other teams who hope to have their shot of glory and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at all seven contenders.

INTERNAZIONALE FC – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10

The José Mourinho era may be over but Internazionale FC still go into this tournament as favourites despite some initial teething problems under new coach Rafael Benítez. Inter haven’t been crowned world champions since 1965 when they defeated Argentinian side Independiente in the old Intercontinental Cup and the Nerazzurri are desperate to add the new trophy to their list of achievements. Internazionale became European champions for the third time in their history having beaten German giants FC Bayern München 2-0 in Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, ironically where their former coach now works. Their current coach Benítez has been in the final of this tournament once before but saw his Liverpool FC side lose to a Brazilian side in the final. Will history repeat itself for the Spaniard? Inter first have to dispose any of Hekari United, Al-Wahda or Seongnam Ilhwa Chuma at the last four stage before they can think of the final.

INTERNACIONAL SC – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2010

The last South American team to win this trophy, Internacional are hoping to create history by becoming the first team to win the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time since the tournament was re-branded in 2004. Their first triumph in this competition came in 2006 in Tokyo where they defeated an FC Barcelona side who were expected to turn up and win the trophy but Inter had other ideas and Adriano Gabiru’s 82nd minute strike remains the club’s finest moment. Internacional would’ve qualified for this year’s tournament even had they have lost the Copa Libertadores final to Mexican side C.D. Guadalajara but a 5-3 aggregate victory for the Porto Alegre based side means that they travel to the UAE with the champion status they deserve. Internacional will face the winners of TP Mazembe and CF Pachuca in the semi-finals.

CF PACHUCA – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10

The champions of North and Central America are competing in this tournament for the third time which is a competition best along with Egyptians Al Ahly. Pachuca’s two previous appearances saw them exit at the quarter-final stage in 2007 before losing to Gamba Osaka in a 3rd/4th place play-off twelve months later. The Mexicans saw off the challenge from compatriots Cruz Azul in the two-legged CONCACAF Champions League final winning courtesy of the away goals rule. Following a 2-1 away defeat, Pachuca were only seconds away from disappointment as the second leg reached its dying moments. However Édgar Benítez’s last gasp goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave Pachuca their fourth continental title and another shot of glory at the world stage. They will face off against African champions TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals.

TP MAZEMBE – CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2010

The Congolese side are back-to-back African champions and undoubtedly the strongest team on the African continental at the moment. Tout Puissant Mazembe, to give their official name, have come back to prominence in the last couple of years and have put four decades without the top African trophy firmly behind them. Following what was an unexpected CAF Champions League win in 2009 TP Mazembe proved their critics wrong by thrashing Tunisian champions Espérance Tunis 6-1 on aggregate and will hope to better their performance in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 where they failed to beat Asian champions Pohang Steelers and OFC Champions Auckland City. Coach Lamine N’Diaye has to negotiate his team’s way through the quarter-finals against CONCACAF champions CF Pachuca before they can meet Internacional SC in the last four stage.

SEONGNAM ILHWA CHUNMA – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2010

The South Koreans may not have won a domestic trophy in four years but that didn’t prevent them from winning Asian football’s elite club competition this year. Coming from the city of Seongnam, this team qualified for the 2010 AFC Champions League as losing finalists from the 2009 K-League final which they lost to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup having defeated Iranian side Zob Ahan Isfahan in the AFC Champions League winning 3-1 in the National Stadium, Tokyo. Their reward is to play against the winners of the qualifying match between Ocenaia champions Hekari United and UAE League champions Al-Wahda in the quarter-finals. Should they be successful in their opening match a semi-final against European champions Internazionale FC awaits.

PKR HEKARI UNITED – OFC O-LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009-10

The rise of Papua New Guinea’s biggest club has been something of a fairytale in world football’s smallest confederation. Having only picked up just one point from their opening two group matches in the 2009-10 O-League, Hekari United then won all of their four remaining games against group opponents Lautoka FC, Tafea FC and Marist FC before going on to meet strong favourites Waitakere United in the final. The New Zealanders, twice O-League champions in the previous three years, came unstuck in the first leg in Port Moresby losing 3-0 before going on to gain some pride with a 2-1 second leg win. The 4-2 aggregate victory for Hekari signalled the first time that a club from outside Australia or New Zealand had won Oceania’s top tournament and rewards them with a qualifying match against UAE champions Al-Wahda which they’ll hope to win in order to meet Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

AL-WAHDA – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES PREMIER LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10

In order to gain some local interest FIFA has decided to include the national champions of the host nation in the last four tournaments. The middle eastern state of the United Arab Emirates hosts this tournament for a second consecutive year and it is 2009-10 Premier League champions Al-Wahda who will hope to do their country proud. Al-Wahda qualified for the tournament after winning their national championship by seven points from nearest challengers Al Jazira and they will hope to better the performance of last year’s representatives Al-Ahli who lost 2-0 to OFC Champions League winners Auckland City in the play-off round. Should Al-Wahda defeat Hekari United in this year’s play-off they will face off against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the quarter-finals.