Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Urawa Reds on the brink of history


Female Japanese Urawa Reds fans, wearing veils in accordance with Iran's strict Islamic dress code, wait for the kick off of their team's first leg of the AFC Champions League final against Iran's Sepahan in Isfahan, Iran, last Wednesday.


The Urawa Reds will be looking to make history in today's second leg of the Asian Champions League (ACL) final.

Last year's J-League champions need a 0-0 draw or better in the match against Sepahan of Iran at Saitama Stadium to become the first Japanese team to claim the Asian Champions League title.

Holger Osieck's side could also book a place in the Club World Cup in Japan next month by winning the Asian Football Confederation championship, and would become the first Japanese club to make the intercontinental tournament in a boost for the host nation.

Defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka is expected to be back for today's game after missing the first leg due to injury.

The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Esfahan last Wednesday.

Tulio played for the Reds against Kawasaki Frontale in a J-League clash on Sunday. Brazilian striker Washington aggravated a broken nose in that game but is expected to play in today's match.

Tadaaki Hirakawa and Tatsuya Tanaka missed a practice session Monday but both will be available, leaving captain Nobuhisa Yamada as Urawa's only major absentee. Yamada missed the first leg due to an ankle injury.

Osieck, who took over from Guido Buchwald, has done a superb job leading the Reds, who are also on the verge of winning another J-league title this season.

Sepahan arrived in Japan on Monday and coach Luca Bonacic said his side is conceding nothing.

"We've come here with the players I wanted to bring," Bonacic said on the ACL Web site. "We still have a good chance. That's what football is all about."

The Iranians could also book a place in the Club World Cup with a win in today's match.

Urawa holds a slim advantage going into the second leg thanks to Robson Ponte's goal in Esfahan, but Urawa's record at home in the knockout stage of the competition has seen them concede on their own turf.

After not allowing a goal in any of its three group stage matches at Saitama, Urawa has conceded three goals in home games in the knockout phase against South Korea's Jeonbuk Motors and Seongnam Ilhwa in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.

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