"This is a competition Milan really want to win, to support their claim to be the most successful side in the world"
The line up of the 2007 World Club Championship in Japan is now finalised with the African and Asian champions now decided.
This year the European and South American teams are two really big names- AC Milan of Italy and Boca Juniors from Argentina. Occasionally the South American champions have been little known outside the Continent but it’s not the case with Boca, alma mater of Diego Maradona.
Liverpool prevented Milan playing in this competition back in 2005 and this time the Italian side returned the compliment. This is a competition Milan really want to win, to support their claim to be the most successful side in the world. However, the Rossoneri are not in great shape at the moment so Boca Juniors will start favourites in many eyes.
The Argentines lifted their fourth Cope Libertadores since the Millennium beating Gremio to end two years of Brazilian domination of the prize. Juan Roman Riquelme scored three times over the two leg Final having returned to his home turf on loan from Villarreal.
Boca wanted to take Riquelme permanently but could not agree a deal with the Spanish side, In his absence its another ex-Villarreal Sebastien Battaglia who they rely on in midfield and skipper Martin Palermo is an experienced top class forward.
Boca have to take on the winners of a tie between Mexico’s Pachucha, representative of CONCACAF and Etoile Sahel from Tunisia. Pachucha got here by winning an all-Mexican Final against Chivas of Guadalajara. Etioile shocked Al Ahly on their home ground and prevented the Reds making their third appearance in a row as African Champions.
Etoile had lost their two previous finals in 2004 and 2005 and after a 0-0 in Tunisia, Al Ahly were in pole position again. A crucial sending off that reduced Al Ahly to 10 men swung the balance in Etoile’s favour though and they scored twice in added time to clinch it 3-1.
Milan could face one of three sides. Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan will have huge support as newly crowned kings of Asia but they may have a rematch with Sepahan of Iran, who they beat in the Final of the Asian Champions League.
In an innovation for this year, Sepahan play off against Waitakere United of New Zealand for the right to meet the Red Diamonds. The rationale for this is that with Australia now playing in the Asian Confederation, the Oceanian competition is now even weaker than it was.
Waitekere came through a 6 team competition which included teams from New Caledonia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands which hardly compares with the effort needed to win any of the other 5 Continental titles.
The competition begins on 7th December and if the Milan-Boca final does come to pass it will be a big drawcard. Milan and Boca are two of the five sides who share the record of 3 Intercontinental titles.
M1 Sepahan v Waitekere United
M2 Pachuca v Etoile Sahel
M3 Urawa Red Diamonds v winner M1
Boca Juniors v Winner M2
Milan v winner M3