The high wire act that is Adelaide United’s progression through the 2008 ACL is now tantalisingly close to leading the fearless Reds to next month’s Asian Football Confederation Champions League Final as well as the Club World Cup in December.
Last month, it was much publicised that manager Aurelio Vidmar had challenged his Adelaide squad to “shock Asia” by progressing to the ACL final four with victory over J-League champion Kashima Antlers.
Two weeks later, “Viddie” must have implored his inspired A-League side to shock the world – judging by the momentus 3–0 victory Adelaide achieved over Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor in the first leg of their AFC Champions League semi-final at Hindmarsh Stadium last week (October 8).
One thing is for sure, the media attention and subsequent shockwaves generated by these two unexpected results have now spread the good name of Adelaide United and the A-League to a huge global audience.
A live Brazilian television audience last week cast their eyes on the Adelaide pitch expecting to be wowed by the stellar combination of striker Rivaldo and manager Zico representing Bunyodkor – instead they witnessed these two Brazilian legends comprehensively upstaged by the trio of lesser known countrymen in the Red Shirts – namely Cássio, Christano and Diego.
While Cássio set up all three of the second-half goals and Diego, and Christano both found themselves on the scoresheet, it was the performance of the entire Adelaide team that enchanted the record Hindmarsh crowd of 16,998 – the second ACL sell-out in Adelaide in succession with tickets snapped up a week before kick-off.
Adelaide will progress to the ACL final next month (November 5 and 12) and an automatic berth in the Club World Cup the following month, unless Bunyodkor can stage a three goal or more comeback when they host Adelaide in the ACL semi-final second leg to be played in Tashkent on October 22 (Wednesday, 11pm AEDT).
As the days countdown to this clash, Vidmar will be working overtime to keep his players focused on the immediate task at hand while all around them their growing legion of fans are already discussing how to get tickets to the ACL final and the prospect of playing Manchester United in the Club World Cup.
The other side to progress to the ACL final remains firmly in the balance with last year’s ACL champions Urawa Red Diamonds drawing 1–1 away to J-League arch-rivals Gamba Osaka in the first leg encounter of the other ACL semi-final in Japan.
Meanwhile, Adelaide’s first mission before flying out on the marathon trip to Tashkent will be to stop off in Brisbane to play the Queensland Roar this Friday night (October 17) to open Round 8 of the A-League.
Newcastle Jets then host Melbourne Victory on Saturday night to be followed by Central Coast at home to Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory hosting Sydney FC on Sunday afternoon.