ACL preview: Wanderers’ sole focus

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The Wanderers’ enchanting journey during their first attempt at the Asian Champions League can be compared to defeat of Goliath by David, with the Wanderers not only silencing some of the largest clubs in the world but also their critics.

The progression of the Wanderers to this semi-final stage in the ACL has both been a miraculous and tumultuous journey.

The club faced polar opposite experiences during the group stage, with the Wanderers partaking in the largest loss of 3-1 but also the biggest win of this stage with 5-0 against Guizhou Renhe.

Yet the club has not let this turbulent experience dampen their momentum heading into the semi-final of the Asians Champions League, with only Adelaide United being the other Australian club reaching this point of the competition in 2008.

FC Seoul, the Wanderers’ latest challenge, certainly plan to be the sixth consecutive Korean team to reach the AFC Champions League Final with their last Australian involvement being the defeat of the Central Coast Mariners in the group stages.

The Western Sydney Team have a great record playing in South Korea, defeating Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 in April.

Coach Tony Popovic assures that the club will be able to “Take a positive result back to Sydney” following their game against FC Seoul this evening.

Key forwards Tomi Juric, Brendon Santalab, along with Shannon Cole, will miss the game after receiving their second yellow cards in the knockout stage in the quarter-final against Guangzhou Renhe.

It is clear that the squad will place some heavy reliance on other talented players such as Labinot Haliti to make their mark on the Wanderers’ relatively short history.

“The suspensions are something we can’t control, the players that are here are well prepared and we are all looking forward to the match,” stated Popovic.

The squad defied the odds with their ability to topple down Chinese giant Guangzhou Evergrande during the quarter-final stage which was plagued with controversy.

Since the success of their quarter final campaign, the Wanderers’ sole focus has been on their next challenge in the semi-final.

“There have been some big obstacles so far to get to this,” Popovic acknowledges, stating that this next game will be another huge challenge for the club and they will be heading into the game with confidence.

“We came here for one reason and that is to bring home points,” Wanderers defensive midfielder Mateo Poljak admits

“We are ready physically and mentally especially.”

The Wanderers’ preseason training camp in the United Arab Emirates has included some friendly games against local sides, attributing to the club’s preparedness in order to dismantle the South Korean squad.

As debutants, the Wanderers will once again face a challenge during their Asians Champions league campaign tonight against the 2013 runners-up.

Without question, this is an immense achievement for any club within the Australian football league and community.

If the Wanderers are able to score a goal and defensively prevent any from being conceded, it is more than obvious that they are in with a chance of success in their second leg of the semi-final, which will be played at Parramatta Stadium.

This sense of optimism about the fact that the Wanderers could perhaps progress to the final of the Asian Champions League, despite their youthful age as a club, is something that all supporters of Australian football should get behind and support.

Live Twitter coverage of the ACL semi-final of FC Seoul vs Western Sydney Wanderers tonight will be on @TheFootballSack.

FC Seoul squad: Sang-Hoon YOO, Du-Ri CHA, Jin-Kyu KIM, Hyo-Jin CHOI, Osmar BARBA, Woong-Hee LEE, Myong-Jin KO, Yo-Han KO, Sang Hyup LEE, Everton SANTOS, Hee-Seong PARK, Kwang-Min KO, Yong-Dae KIM, Hyun-Tae CHOI, Sergio ESCURDO, Mauricio MOLINA, Joo-Young KIM, Il-Lok YUN.

Western Sydney Wanderers squad: Ante COVIC, Daniel MULLEN, Daniel ALESSI, Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, Antony GOLEC, Brendan HAMILL, Alusine FOFANAH, Mateo POLJAK, Yianni PERKATIS, Jason TRIFIRO, Iacopo LA ROCCA, Kwabena APPIAH, Labinot HALITI, Vitor SABA, Mark BRIDGE, Golgol MEBRAHATU, Dean BOUZANIS, Steve KUZMANOVSKI.

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Jessica Csaszar
Jessica joined the team for 2014 covering Western Sydney Wanderers in the Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League.

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