Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

CONCACAF: Old rivals to meet in U-17 Championship final

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on February 26, 2011

CONCACAF U-17 ChampionshipThe United States will meet their neighbours and old foes Canada in the final of this year’s CONCACAF Under-17 Championship final in Jamaica on Sunday. The Americans defeated the hosts in order to gain their berth in the final whilst Canada scraped a slender one goal win over Panama to reach their first ever tournament final.

The Americans are the favourites to lift the CONCACAF Under-17 title following their 2-0 triumph over Jamaica on Friday night. Marc Pelosi opened the scoring after just ten minutes but the USA team would have to wait until two minutes into second half stoppage time before they could celebrate the win. Andrew Oliver made sure of the win after striking the second goal of the game to ensure that his team would face the Canadians who had, earlier in the day, beaten Panama in their semi-final match.

The Canadians had it tougher in their last four encounter and the game was decided by an eighth minute goal from Luca Gasparotto. This made sure of Canada’s first ever appearance in a tournament final at this level. The best that Canada had done in this competition was a quartet of 3rd place finishes in the former Under-16 tournaments held in 1985, 1988, 1992 and 1994. The United States, on the other hand, have plenty of experience in this tournament winning it outright in  1983 and 1992 as well as a couple of group wins in the 1990s.

The 3rd/4th place play-off between losing semi-finalists Panama and Jamaica will take place on Sunday at 16:00 local time whilst the final between United States and Canada kicks off at 19:00.

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CONCACAF: Quarter-finalists decided in U17 Championship

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on February 20, 2011

CONCACAF U-17 Championship logoThe CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, used as a qualifying tournament to decide which four teams will go to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico later this year, has been whittled down to the last eight after the completion of the group stages this weekend.

In Group A Costa Rica qualified as group winners after they defeated El Salvador in the group’s final match on Friday. After Haiti had pulled out of their completing their programme due to an illness in the playing squad, both of the other two nations in the group knew they had already qualified but with the group leadership at stake both teams gave it their all. John Jairo Ruiz proved to be the main man for Costa Rica as he scored all three of his team’s goals in a 3-2 win over El Salvador. Costa Rica will face-off against Group B runners-up Panama in the quarter-finals whilst El Salvador will compete against Group B winners the United States. The Americans won both of their group games against Panama and Cuba whilst the Panamanians could only progress thanks to having a slightly better goal difference than the Cubans.

Group C saw tournament hosts Jamaica progress as group winners on goal difference. They finished the group phase with four points along with Trinidad & Tobago with Guatemala losing both of their games to the top two. Jamaica and T&T had drawn their game against each other 2-2 therefore making the margin of victory against Guatemala all important. As group winners Jamaica will meet Group D runners-up Honduras whilst T&T have a meeting against Group D winners Canada. There was a similar situation in Group D as Canada and Honduras, who had drawn their game against each other, had to rely on the margin of their victories over bottom side Barbados to decide the outcome of the group. The Canadians took the top spot after hammering the hapless Barbados side 8-0 whilst Honduras could only muster a 2-1 win.

The four teams who qualify for the semi-finals of this tournament will feature in the FIFA U-17 Championship later this year so for many of the teams left remaining the quarter-final matches take on a cup final significance of their own. Here is the draw for the last eight:

QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

Costa Rica v Panama

United States v El Salvador

Canada v Trinidad & Tobago

Jamaica v Honduras

The top two matches take place on February 22nd, the bottom two play on February 23rd. All matches to be played in Montego Bay.

 

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CONCACAF: Under-17 Championship kicks off in Jamaica

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on February 14, 2011

CONCACAF U-17 Championship logoThe year 2011 is seeing a lot of action at many levels of the game all over the world. The latest tournament to begin is the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship which takes place from today in Jamaica.

The tournament sees twelve teams split into four groups of three with the top two from each going through to the quarter-finals, at which point the tournament becomes a straight knockout. The 2009 competition played in Mexico was halted after the group stages and never completed due to the outbreak of swine flu and, thus, we have no defending champion to speak of preceeding the big kick-off. The four teams that qualify for the semi-finals will qualify automatically for the FIFA U-17 World Cup which takes place in Mexico from July this year so there is a lot depending on the early rounds of the tournament.

With the tournament finishing on February 27th there is a lot of football to cram into two weeks. Here is the draw for the group stages:

GROUP A: Costa Rica; El Salvador; Haiti

GROUP B: Cuba; Panama; United States

GROUP C: Guatemala; Jamaica; Trinidad & Tobago

GROUP D: Barbados; Canada; Honduras

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CONCACAF: Panama remain 100%; Group Stage Review

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on January 19, 2011

Copa Centroamericana logoThe group stage in the Copa Centroamericana has concluded with the top six countries now doing battle either for the title or for the chance to gain a place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup which takes place later this year.

Tournament hosts and defending champions Panama ended the group stage with a 100% record following three wins against opponents El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize. This sets up a semi-final against record champions Costa Rica who finished second in Group B due to having scored one fewer goal than group leaders Honduras who, in turn, will face off against Group A runners-up El Salvador in the final four.

The four semi-finalists are now guaranteed their places in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and one of Nicaragua or Guatemala will join them. Those two countries must feature in a 5th/6th place play-off having finished third in their respective groups whilst Belize, who finished bottom of Group A due to an inferior goal difference, are eliminated from the competition.

SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Honduras v El Salvador

Panama v Costa Rica

The semi-final matches will be played on Friday, January 21st with the 3rd/4th play-off and final to follow two days later.

CONCACAF: Copa Centroamericana kicks off in Panama

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on January 13, 2011

Copa Centroamericana logoThe Copa Centroamericana, a tournament for Central American nations, takes place in Panama starting Friday. With five places up for grabs in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup seven countries will take part in the 11th edition of the Centroamericana, which was previously known as the UNCAF Nations Cup, in the hope of qualifying for the main competition, to be held in the United States this June. Panama are the defending champions having won their maiden title in Honduras two years ago against Costa Rica in a final decided on penalties following a goalless draw. Can they hold on to the trophy or will any of the other six contenders go all the way? Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the tournament:

GROUP A (Belize; El Salvador; Nicaragua; Panama)

BELIZE: The Jaguars will have their work cut out to qualify from the group as they are undoubtedly the weakest team amongst the four in Group A. Belize have never qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in their history and finished bottom of Group A in the previous tournament which eliminated them instantly from the 2009 competition. FIFA World Ranking = 173

EL SALVADOR: The best that El Salvador have ever done in this competition is third place on three occasions (1997, 2001, 2003). Two years ago they could only manage fourth place having lost to Costa Rica in the semi-finals and Honduras in the 3rd/4th play-off and will be keen to get to their first final but will find the going tough once again beyond the group stage. FIFA World Ranking = 116

NICARAGUA: Not expected to trouble the leading lights in this tournament but would like to emulate the feat of two years ago when they won the 5th/6th play-off defeating Guatemala 2-0 to qualify for their first ever CONCACAF Gold Cup. This is probably the best they can hope for in this year’s tournament. FIFA World Ranking = 157

PANAMA: The hosts and defending champions will be hoping to regain the title won in 2009 but will face a stern challenge from the likes of Costa Rica and Honduras for the trophy. Have improved in recent years and have the second highest FIFA ranking of the teams in the tournament. FIFA World Ranking = 67

Panama Copa Centroamericana

Panama are the defending champions in this competition

GROUP B (Costa Rica; Guatemala; Honduras)

COSTA RICA: Record champions with six titles to their name (1991, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007) Costa Rica only lost out on a seventh title in 2009 due to a penalty shoot-out and los Ticos are determined to get their crown back. Will definitely reach the semi-finals only a mixture of quality and luck will determine whether they make it lucky seven. FIFA World Ranking = 69

GUATEMALA: Champions for the one and only time back in 2001 Guatemala reached the final in the following tournament but have failed to reach it since. In 2009 Los Chapines lost in the 5th/6th play-off and failed to make it to the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time since 1993. They expect better luck this time and hope for a minimum 5th place finish to get over the disappointment of two years ago. FIFA World Ranking = 117

HONDURAS: Two-time champions in 1993 and 1995 Honduras have only reached the final one time since those glory days with a losing appearance in 2005. The country hosted the 2009 UNCAF Nations Cup, the last time it was played under that name, and were knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual champions Panama. FIFA World Ranking = 56

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SuperLiga: New England and Morelia in 2010 final (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on August 6, 2010
Tigres UNAL

Mexican side Tigres UNAL lifted the SuperLiga title in 2009. Who will win it in 2010?

For anybody unfamiliar with the SuperLiga one could call it a mini version of a UEFA Europa League or a Copa Sudamericana. I say “mini version” because it is pretty much a best of the rest competition limited to teams from the United States and Mexico with the best four teams who have not qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League from each country allowed to participate in this tournament. Now in its fourth year the SuperLiga shows the Mexicans enjoying more success than the Americans with two titles to one so far, Tigres UNAL winning the title last year after defeating Chicago Fire in a penalty shoot-out after the game finished 1-1. In this year’s competition the group stages, divided into two groups of four teams, were completed in July with each team only having to play their group opponents once. The best four teams in the competition have played in the semi-finals this week and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog brings you the latest action:

New England Revolution, 2008 winners of this event, have qualified for their second final after beating Mexican side Puebla F.C. in a penalty shoot-out after their semi-final contest finished 1-1 after 90 minutes. The Revolution qualified for the semi-finals after finishing top of Group B with a 100% record over Morelia, Chicago Fire and UNAM Pumas and had the home draw against their Mexican opponents, who finished second behind Houston Dynamo in Group A. Kenny Mansally gave the Revs the lead after 56 minutes but the New England outfit were made to pay the price just two minutes later when Nicolás Olivera equalized for Puebla to restore parity so soon after going behind. With no further scoring in the ninety minutes the match went straight into a penalty shoot-out and each team were equal to each other until they took their fourth penalty with the Revs having the advantage once Edgar Lugo hit his kick straight at keeper Matt Reis. Kenny Mansally scored the winning penalty to take former Liverpool man Steve Nicol’s team into their second SuperLiga final.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION V PUEBLA F.C. HERE:

The second semi-final was played between Houston Dynamo, who finished top of group A with two wins and a draw from three games, and Morelia. The Mexicans went through courtesy of a goal just two minutes into the second half after Miguel Sabah coolly finished to give his side a 1-0 lead which they never relinquished. It sets up the third America v Mexico final in the tournament’s four year history with only the 2009 final being an all-American affair. The final takes place in late August and will be hosted at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the home of the New England Revolution.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF HOUSTON DYNAMO V MORELIA HERE:


FIFA World Cup Review – North and Central America

Posted in International Football, North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 12, 2010
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan secured the USA a place in the last sixteen of the FIFA World Cup

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog continues to review each of the respective continental fortunes in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Here we look at the three nations that comprised the challenge from the CONCACAF North and Central American region.

The United States qualified for their sixth straight FIFA World Cup finals and were hoping to reach at least the quarter-finals to equal their best ever performance. The Americans were involved in some of South Africa’s most memorable and controversial moments for as long as they were in the tournament. Their opening group match against England saw them fall behind after just four minutes to a Steven Gerrard goal but they restored parity five minutes before the break when England keeper Robert Green hilariously let the ball slip his grasp to gift Clint Dempsey the equalizer. They also had to come from behind to salvage a point against Slovenia who were two goals to the good at half time before Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley brought them level. With Slovenia on the ropes Maurice Edu thought he’d won the game with five minutes remaining but the referee disallowed the goal for a foul which nobody saw. The final group match against Algeria saw more late drama as, with the game goalless and deep into stoppage time, Landon Donovan scored from six yards out to give the USA top spot in the group over England and a round of sixteen encounter against Ghana. Sadly for coach Bob Bradley his team were unable to progress when it mattered as they dominated a second half in which they came back from a 1-0 half time deficit. But the game went into extra-time where Asamoah Gyan wrote history for the Africans with a beautifully struck goal which knocked the Americans out of the competition.

Having had a terrible start to World Cup qualifying the Mexicans had steadied the ship under coach Javier Aguirre and were quietly optimistic that they could qualify from their group. Mexico had the pleasure of participating in the opening game of the tournament against hosts South Africa who took the lead after 55 minutes after Siphiwe Tshabalala. The Bafana Bafana were to rue some late lack of concentration when Rafael Márquez equalized with twenty minutes to go and ensured that Mexico would gain a point from the match. The second game brought more joy for El Tri where they got the better of a French side beset by infighting and a lack of morale. Javier Hernández and Cuauhtémoc Blanco scored the goals which put paid to French hopes and gave them a top of the group clash with Uruguay to decide the group. The Mexicans, sadly for them, lost their final group match to a Luis Suárez goal and this meant that they finished second in the group and had a clash with Argentina in the round of sixteen stage for the second consecutive tournament. When the game took place Mexico were fuming about Carlos Tévez’s opening goal in which he was stood in an offside position but hadn’t been spotted by the officials. Once Gonzalo Higuaín had made it 2-0 there was really no way back for the Mexicans, who had to watch Tévez score his second before pulling one back through Javier Hernández in a 3-1 defeat which signalled the end of the road.

The final team from the CONCACAF region to be represented were Honduras who were in the same group as European champions Spain, Chile and Switzerland. In their opening game against Chile it was to be disappotment for Los Catrachos when Jean Beausejour’s 34th minute strike was enough to separate the two teams and lead Honduras to defeat. Their second game saw them go down to a double strike from David Villa in a game the Spanish should’ve won with more goals but, in the end, Honduras had to be grateful just for conceding two especially as Villa missed a penalty kick which would’ve seen him score a hat trick. Honduras’ final group match against Switzerland was one of the worst matches of the tournament and was no surprise when it finished as a goalless draw. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and Honduras celebrated their first and only point in South Africa even if they couldn’t prevent themselves finishing bottom of the group.

So what about the future? The next tournament in Brazil in four years time may provide some benefit to the nations that qualify from CONCACAF as they may be more adept at acclimatizing to the conditions than some of their opponents. But even if one doesn’t take that in to consideration one can only hope that this region does provide a meaningful challenge in the near future as the potential of countries such as the big two, Mexico and the United States, is as yet unrealized in this competition. The former have only qualified for the last eight on two occasions whilst the latter’s third place in the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930 is too far in the past to have any significance today. Expectations after their 2002 quarter-final appearance may have reached unrealistic proportions going into the 2006 tournament where the USA failed to get past the group stage but the talent is growing steadily in that region and we can hope that one of them might trouble the usual suspects in 2014.

Caribbean: CFU Club Championship 2010 Preview

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 15, 2010
CFU logo

The logo for the Caribbean Football Union

It seems that in every major region of the world nowadays there is a football tournament that brings together the cream of the footballing crop to fight it out for the ultimate glory at international level. The Caribbean region is holding a tournament for seventeen of its major club sides from March until May with the competition split into three league stages with the third and final round determining the champion and, along with that, the three sides who will represent the region in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League. Since the tournament commenced in 1997 there have been seven different winners of the competition with all of them coming from either Jamaica or Trinidad & Tobago. The latter country is home to the current champion W Connection FC who, having finished fourth in their domestic championship in 2009, will not be participating in this season’s competition. Three teams have already been given byes to the second round group stage: Puerto Rico Islanders, FC Tempête (Haiti) and San Juan Jabloteh (Trinidad & Tobago).

Each of the groups in the first round are played in a designated venue spread over a number of days. Group A will be played in Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles, from March 16-20 and the two local sides CSD Barber and the 2009 domestic champions Hubentut Fortuna will be hoping to make home advantage count. However they face some tough opposition in the form of Racing Club Haïtien, record champions of Haiti and one of two teams from that country to have won the CONCACAF Champions Cup, who will fancy their chances of progression although this is only their second appearance in this tournament, their maiden appearance in 2001 saw them reach the second round group stage before losing out to W Connection FC. The other side in this group are Puerto Ricans River Plate who were founded in 2007 with help from their more illustrious namesakes from Argentina and are making their maiden appearance in this tournament having won the 2009 Puerto Rico Soccer League (PRSL) regular season.

Only three teams will play in Group B whose games will all be played in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Local side Bayamón FC have an obvious advantage and the 2009 PRSL play-off champions should get through to the second stage with relative ease. Systems 3 from St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Guyana’s Defense Force make up the rest of the group which will be concluded on March 27th. Group C will be played in Kingstown, St. Vincent & the Grenadines from March 17-21 and the local representatives Avenues United FC will hope to count on local support to get them through a tough group. The obvious favourites to claim top spot are Joe Public FC who are two-time winners of the CFU Club Championship (1998, 2000) and current national champions of Trinidad & Tobago. Leo Victor FC from Surinam haven’t won their domestic championship since 1992 but did perform in this tournament in 2007 reaching the quarter-finals so they are not a team to take lightly. The final team in Group C are Devonshire Cougars, three-time champions of Bermuda, representing a country who is sending a team to this tournament for the first time. Finally Group D will take place in the Guyanan capital Georgetown from March 16-20 in another three team group involving local side Alpha United, Centre Bath Estate from Dominica and Surinam champions Walking Boys Company FC.

CONCACAF Champions League: Quarter-Final Preview

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 9, 2010
Concacaf Champions Cup

Atlante CF captain Federico Vilar lifts the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League trophy. Who will win the 2009-10 edition?

North and Central America’s elite club competition continues after a four month break with Mexican clubs threatening to continue their dominance of the tournament. Mexican clubs account for the last four winners of the competition and with half of the remaining eight teams in the quarter-final stage coming from the regional footballing superpower the dominance is expected to continue into this year. However there are four other teams ready to challenge this recent monopoly of the tournament with one team each from the USA, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama ready to give the Mexicans a run for their money. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals:

CSD COMUNICACIONES (Guatemala) v C.F. PACHUCA (Mexico)

Pachuca will wish to continue their recent record in this tournament having been triumphant in 2002, 2007 and 2008. They are expected to get through against 1978 champions Comunicaciones who are currently second in their domestic league, but who haven’t got the strength in depth of their more illustrious opponents. In saying that Comunicaciones can take heart in the fact that Pachuca have lost four of their nine matches in the current Mexican Clausura championship campaign and the Guatemalans did rest some players this weekend ahead of tonight’s clash. In the group stage Pachuca finished top of Group A by a comfortable five point margin from Panamanian side CD Arabe Unido whilst Comunicaciones finished second in Group D four points behind UNAM Pumas from Mexico.

COLUMBUS CREW (United States) v DEPORTIVO TOLUCA (Mexico)

Columbus Crew are playing in this competition for the third time in their history and will want to get past their previous best finish of a quarter-final place in the 2003 Champions Cup (as it was then called) against Mexican side Morelia. With the new MLS season not due to start for at least another few weeks the Americans will relish all the match practice they can get. Deportivo Toluca, on the other hand, are well into the Mexican Clausura season but they, like Pachuca, haven’t set the world alight with their recent form. In the group stage the Mexicans finished top of a very tight Group B finishing two and three points ahead of Hondurans C.D. Marathón and MLS side D.C. United respectively. Columbus Crew finished a distant second in Group C eight points behind Cruz Azul.

C.D. MARATHÓN (Honduras) v PUMAS de la  UNAM (Mexico)

UNAM were three times champions of the old CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1980, 1982 and 1989 but were defeated finalists as recently as 2005. The Pumas are going well in their domestic Clausura championship group and hope that they can finally experience some continental glory for the first time in a generation. They are expected to get past their opponents who are lying eighth in the Honduran league but who have been resting players ready for the continuation of this tournament. Having won the Torneo Apertura (Opening championship) before Christmas Marathón could afford to rest on their domestic laurels. They just about qualified from Group B having beaten American capital side D.C. United by a single point in the group phase while Pumas had a slightly easier progression with a four point advantage in first place over fellow quarter-finalists Comunicaciones.

ARABE UNIDO (Panama) v CRUZ AZUL (Mexico)

Joint record champions Cruz Azul have won this tournament in its former guise of the Champions Cup five times (1969, 1970, 1971, 1996, 1997) but were losing finalists last season against Mexican rivals Atlante C.F. (see picture). Cruz Azul also qualified for the Copa Libertadores final in 2001 but were unlucky to lose to Argentinian giants Boca Juniors on penalties after the two-legged final had finished 1-1. The Mexicans were the only team in all four groups to qualify for the quarter-finals with a 100% record and are firm favourites to get through to the final four against an Arabe Unido side who currently lie sixth in a very tight domestic league only two points behind championship leaders Chepo F.C. Arabe Unido finished three points ahead of US side Houston Dynamo in second place from Group A to get to this stage.

FIFA Club World Cup preview

FIFA Club World Cup

Seven teams will fight it out in the UAE for the trophy

Love it or loathe it the FIFA Club World Cup is going to remain a staple part of the football calendar. To some observers it’s a chance to win a trophy and add more prestige to their club. To some others it’s a competition that turns up in the middle of a long hard season, getting in the way of domestic progress. Either way there will be seven teams in the United Arab Emirates from December 9-19 who will be giving everything to win the cup. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the participants:

FC BARCELONA – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

FC Barcelona became European champions for the third time in May after beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome. It is surprising that a massive club such as “Barça” has never won the FIFA Club World Cup or its predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup. After twice being crowned European champions in 1992 and 2006 the Catalans have been defeated by Brazilian clubs in their attempts to be crowned the world’s best. In 1992 a São Paulo side inspired by Rai beat Barça 2-1 and then, three years ago, Internacional scored a late goal to deny Barcelona again. This time the ‘Blaugrana’ hope to make it third time lucky in this tournament and add the FIFA Club World Cup to the other five trophies they’ve won under their coach Pep Guardiola.

ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2009

Estudiantes won their fourth Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 victory over two legs against Brazilian side Cruzeiro. The Argentinian side had a mixed record in the Intercontinental Cup during their heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their solo victory came in 1968 after a 2-1 aggregate win over Manchester United (before 1979 the champions of Europe and South America played home and away matches to win the cup). Their next two efforts, however, ended in failure; in 1969 Milan won 4-2 on aggregate and in 1970 Feyenoord Rotterdam claimed their only world title with a 3-2 aggregate win. Can Juan Sebastián Verón emulate his father Juan Ramón’s achievements and become a world champion with his boyhood club?

ATLANTE CF – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Mexican side secured their second CONCACAF Champions League title after an all-Mexican affair with Cruz Azul ended up 2-0 after a two-legged final. Atlante’s other title win was back in 1983 when they defeated Surinam’s Robinhood FC (yes, really!) 6-1 over two legs. Atlante’s Club World Cup campaign will kick-off at the quarter-final stage against either Al Ahli or Auckland City, who meet in the first match of the competition.

POHANG STEELERS – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The three time Asian champions have not always dominated the domestic scene in South Korea but tend to thrive in Asian club competition. After previous successes in 1997 and 1998, Pohang Steelers won a third title this year by defeating Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Tokyo’s National Stadium. Pohang will play against TP Mazembe at the quarter-final stage, the winner of which faces Estudiantes in the semi-finals.

TP MAZEMBE – CAF AFRICAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Congolese side have been African champions on three occasions after their most recent success was decided on away goals against Nigerian team Heartlands FC. After the Nigerians won the first leg 2-1 at home, Mazembe won the second leg 1-0 to secure a passage to the Middle East. A meeting with Estudiantes de la Plata awaits if they can overcome Pohang Steelers in the quarter-final.

AUCKLAND CITY – OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The New Zealanders will be participating in the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time, after their previous appearance in 2006, following their 9-4 win over Soloman Islands’ club Koloale FC in the two-legged OFC Champions League final. In 2006 Auckland City lost in the opening play-off match to Al Ahly of Egypt 2-0. Can they avoid a repeat against a similarly named Al Ahli of UAE in this year’s tournament?

AL AHLI – UAE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009

Representing the host country in this year’s tournament, Al Ahli have never been Asian champions but are the current UAE League champions after winning the title by one point from nearest challengers Al Jazira Club. Last season’s attempt at continental glory came to an end in the group phase of the AFC Champions League competition. Will meet Atlante CF in the quarter-final if they beat Auckland City in the play-off match.