Fearless Estudiantes FC are ready to take on Gamba Osaka in the Frenz International Cup 2015 quarterfinals at the Maybank Stadium in Bangi tomorrow after emerging from the group stages as one of the front runners.
Wins over AIFF India (3-0), Frenz United Malaysia (4-0) and defeating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 gave the Argentineans a three-match unbeaten run, and head coach Desio Hermes does not want his boys to stop there.
“We have not analysed their (Gamba Osaka) games. We will only decide on what to do after we do our research,” said Hermes, who has nothing but praise for the tournament. “It is an honour to play here, and we are glad we accepted the invitation. It is such great experience for my players to play different opponents from different countries.”
Hermes was also reserved about his team's chances in the next match, adding: “We are just aware that to be the best, we have to keep challenging the best, so we just want to look forward to playing stronger opponents from here on.”
Estudiantes will be banking on Lazzarini Emiliano and Cejas Juan Bautista, who have been a threat to their opponents in the group stages with their speed.
On the opposite end, Gamba head coach Hironari Umezu is looking to see his side attack more often against Estudiantes. Strikers Taichi Takeda and Tappei Kawanami will return to action after sitting on the bench in the 1-0 defeat to FC Porto. Taichi has three goals to his name and will spearhead Gamba’s scoring machine.
“We did not risk them against Porto because they picked up yellow cards. But I do want to see my team attack more often against Estudiantes," said Hironari.
Meanwhile, the other quarterfinal match will be an all-European affair as Portugal’s FC Porto faces Spurs at the Shah Alam Stadium. Group C leaders Porto have been playing consistently with two wins and a draw, and head coach Antonio Jose Dos Santos Folha said the Portuguese team will be firing on all cylinders against their English opponents.
“We never hold back. Our philosophy is to always play our strongest hand, and that is what we will do,” said Folha, who insists that their plan is always to score as many goals.”
Spurs certainly have their work cut out for them as Porto's well organised movement will make it hard for coach McKenna Kieran Thomas' boys to breach Porto's net.
But Thomas will have forwards Harrison Shayon Adam and Loft Ryan George Henson, who scored two goals apiece, to lead the charge.
"I have not actually seen any of our opponent's (FC Porto) games, but we will have a plan ready,” said Thomas. “Our goal is to help the team stay in the tournament for as long as possible, because it means more high quality matches and more experience for the boys. We will be looking forward to the quarterfinals.”
In Palembang, Indonesia, Head coach Mohamad Zahid Hashim says Frenz United Indonesia is mentally and physically prepared to take on the greater challenge against S.C. Internacional in the quarterfinals at the Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium in Jakabaring tomorrow.
“We will face one of the strongest teams here and it is not going to be easy for us,” said the Malaysian. “Technically we have the skills to take them on. We are prepared both mentally and physically against the Brazilians.”
“They (Internacional) are a very polished and skilful side. But I told the players that nothing is impossible if we get things going right from the very beginning. We need to shake them off with early goals,” added Zahid.
Frenz United Indonesia’s route to the quarterfinals began with a 6-5 defeat against England’s Liverpool FC and then held to a 1-1 draw by Netherland’s Feyenoord FC before crushing Guangzhou Evergrande of China 3-0 to finish second in Group A, five points adrift of table leaders Liverpool.
The Brazilians, on the opposite end, scored a total of 14 goals while their defenders allowed two goals to past through. They started their campaign with a 3-1 win over Spanish side Valencia CF, thrashed Thailand’s Chonburi FC 6-0 and concluded Group B fixtures with a 5-1 victory over J-League side Kashima Antlers.
A team blended with 14 Indonesians, seven Malaysians and three Iranian players, FUI will look to striker Reza Habil Karimi and Ade Ivan Hafilah, who returned from a hamstring. Ade combined well with Reza to score the second goal against the Chinese in his first match of the tournament but has not been fully tested.
FUI had a light training session at the Bumi Sriwijaya Stadium this morning and the morale in the team is equally high.
“We have to put in a lot of effort against the Brazilians. It’s got to be more than just 100 per cent if we want to win. There are no shorter ways. The FIC is a highly competitive tournament with quality teams,” said Zahid, adding that Malacca-born Yugan Poobathy will not be in the line-up as he is serving a two-match suspension for picking a red card against Feyenoord.
Meanwhile, Internacional head coach Ricardo Cobalchini is keeping his options open, not wanting to reveal too much for the quarterfinals tie.
“We have watched FUI and they have depth in all departments. It is not right to single out any player who needs extra watch as the team is strong in defence and attack. But we have our strategy,” said Cobalchini.
Striker Matheus Carvalho Resende, Tulio Marcus Rodrigues, Alexandro Perreira, Ronald Santanna Rodrigues and midfielder Bruno Jose De Souza have all had their names on the score sheet and will pose a danger to FUI.
In Kuala Lumpur – Saturday (10, January, 2015): Estudiantes FC v Gamba Osaka (4.30pm, Maybank Sports Complex, Bangi); Tottenham Hotspur v Porto FC (7.30pm, Shah Alam Stadium).
In Palembang – Saturday (10 January, 2015): Liverpool FC v Valencia CF (4.0pm); Frenz United Indonesia v SC Internacional (8.30pm). Both matches played at Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium.