Reds looking forward to showdown with AC Milan

by James Mulligan

Urawa Reds coach Holger Osieck believes his team can complete mission impossible by beating Italian giants AC Milan in the semifinals of the Club World Cup on Thursday.

News photoKaka of AC Milan, fights for the ball during his team’s practice session on Tuesday in Yokohama. AC Milan
will face the Urawa Reds in the semifinals of the Club World Cup.
AP PHOTO

The Saitama side beat Iranian team Sepahan 3-1 on Monday in Toyota in a repeat of last month’s AFC Champions League final, and spurred on by this triumph German coach Osieck says they now have a chance of making the final.

“If you compare us against Milan, it seems almost impossible as Milan has a lot of history, tradition and decades of success,” said Osieck on Wednesday.

“This is the first time for us to play in such a big international tournament. But if we don’t think we have a chance we better pack our bags and go home. That is not our intent.”

The Reds face Milan at Yokohama International Stadium, also the venue for Sunday’s final.

“It’s the eve of a great game for our team and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity for us to show another great performance like we did against Sepahan.

“Milan is a fantastic team and it’s a great challenge but myself, the team, the players are all looking forward to it. I hope it will be a great football evening.”

Osieck admitted it will be difficult for the Reds to unlock the Italians’ backline, but hoped the thrill of playing the European champions will inspire his charges.

“It’s not easy to open the Milan defense. They are well-structured, experienced and well-balanced. I hope we find a way to get through but I’d rather not go into details.

“I hope our players can regain their strength as quickly as possible, recharge their batteries. A game against a big club like AC Milan should produce a lot of adrenaline in my players.”

The Milanese are favorites to progress to the final and waiting there will be Argentina’s Boca Juniors, who beat Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel 1-0 in the first semifinal Wednesday.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti pinpointed Urawa striker Washington, scorer of the second goal in the win over Sepahan, as one of the dangers facing the Italian club.

“He has a lot of ability, experience but of course the Reds also have good midfielders who are dynamic and skilled, such as (Keita) Suzuki, (Yuki) Abe, and (Makoto) Hasebe. They are all great players,” said the Italian coach, who confirmed Brazilian superstar Ronaldo will not be fit for the match.

“I decided he was not fit for the match but maybe he would be OK for 15 minutes on Sunday.

“Even so, tomorrow’s game is not an easy one and we need to concentrate 100 percent to win,” said Ancelotti.

The Milanese were last crowned world club champions in 1990, when they won their second-straight Toyota Cup 3-0 against Paraguay’s Olimpia Asuncion at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

South American champion Boca beat Milan on penalties in the 2003 Toyota Cup, the one-off game between the European and South American champions that preceded the Club World Cup.

Last year, Brazil’s Internacional beat European giant Barcelona 1-0 in the final, and Sao Paulo downed Liverpool by the same scoreline in 2005.