Preview: 2014 AFC Champions League – Final – Western Sydney Wanderers – Al-Hilal
Al-Hilal is an historical leading clubs both in Saudi Arabia and in Asia, while the same can’t be said for Western Sydney Wanderers FC, that started competing in Autumn 2012, but they have already reached two A-League-Grand Finals (2013, 2014) and one AFC Champions League Final (2014): a great achievement for a two-year-old-club.
Moreover these teams have the best supporters in the competition: Al-Hilal’s fans are more numerous and they set amazing choreos, while WSW FC’s ones are more loud.
There isn’t a clear favorite in this Final: the Saudi team surely is more experienced and maybe a little bit stronger, but the Australians have been the underdogs in almost every tie of the Knock-out Stage.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC has been the first Australian club to reach an AFC CL Final since the Country joined AFC: a reason for that is that Australian clubs in A-League have to deal with a Salary Cap that also limits them at international level.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS FC – AL-HILAL FC 45% – 55%
First Leg: Parramatta Stadium, Sydney, 25/10/2014.
Second Leg: King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh, 01/11/2014.
The key players in Al-Hilal FC are the Romanian International Mihai Pintilii (former Steaua Bucarest defender), the South Korean International Kwak Tae-Hwi, the Equatorian International Segundo Castillo (former Red Star Belgrade, Everton, Wolverhampton and Pachuca midfielder) and the Brazilians Digão (former Fluminense defender) and Thiago Neves (former Fluminense, Hamburger SV and Flamengo offensive midfielder).
Moreover there are few Saudi Arabian Internationals, such as the defender Sultan Al-Bishi and Abdullah Al-Zori, the midfielders Salem Al-Dawsari, Saud Kariri and Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammad Al-Shalhoub and the strikers Yousef Al-Salem, Nasser Al-Shamrani (10 goals in 11 matches in this Competion) and Yasser Al-Qahtani.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC is the youngest team in A-League, but, despite being just at its second season, proved to be one of the most successfull franchises in the League, playing two Grand Final in two year (in 2012/13 they lost to Central Coast Mariners), and qualified for AFC Champions League 2013/14 Quarter-finals at its first experience in the continental Competition. The team, that wears a red and black orizontal striped jersey, proved to have, despite sharing the local fanbase with the “older” Sydney FC, a good success on the stands as well, because, with 14.860 spectators per game, has the fourth average attendance in the last A-League, and registered decent numbers (about 11.000 per game) during AFC Champions League games as well, a competition often “snobbed” by australian fans; moreover WSWFC fans are among the loudest in the Country.
The most famous and/or important players in the squad managed by the former Australian International, Anthony Popovic, are: Ante Covic (38, former PAOK FC, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Hammarby IF nd Elfsborg IF goalkepeer), Matthew Spiranovic (25, Australian International, former 1.FC Nürnberg and Urawa Red Diamond right back), Michael Beauchamp (33, former Australian International, former 1.FC Nürnberg and Aalborg BK defender, he’s the Captain of the team), Brendan Hamill (21, promising central back with experience in South Korea), Mateo Poljak (24, former NK Lokomotiva Zagreb croatian midfielder), Brendon Santalab (31 a left winger who played in Belgium, Hungary and China), Romeo Castelen (former ADO, Feyenoord Hamburger SV, Volga NN and RKC Dutch winger, he was considered a big prospect when he was younger), Vitor Saba (former Flamengo, Vitòria and Brescia Brazilian offensive midfielder), Mark Bridge (28, striker) and Tomi Juric (22, Australian International, former NK Lokomotiva Zagreb and NK Inter Zapresic forward).