Urawa say the pressure's all on AC Milan

Urawa Reds say the pressure is all on AC Milan as they look to defy the odds to take the Italian giant's scalp in the Club World Cup semi-finals.

updated: December 12, 2007 17:13 IST
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Asian champions Urawa Reds say the pressure is all on AC Milan as they look to defy the odds to take the Italian giant's scalp in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Thursday.

Confidence is running through the Japanese club after a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Iran's Sepahan in their quarter-final clash Monday, a repeat of their two-leg AFC Champions League victory last month.

While AC Milan will be hot favourite to reach Sunday's final, Urawa refuse to be daunted by the task of taking on the European champions in Yokohama.

"The pressure is on our opponents to win," Urawa striker and former Brazil international Washington said after scoring his team's second against Sepahan in Toyota.

"Urawa are on the verge of making history. We want to take advantage of the momentum and go for it," added the 32-year-old.

razilian-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka, a tough, goal-scoring centre-back for both Urawa and the Japanese national team, agreed with Washington.

"In football, it's not the name that matters," he said. "It's important to enjoy the game against Milan. There may be a thing or two which we can't do against them but we have nothing to lose."

The Red Diamonds have been on a rollercoaster this past month.

After beating Sepahan in the AFC final on November 14, they then lost their J-League title on the final day of the season and went out in the fourth round of the Emperor's Cup tournament as holders.

Urawa are the first Japanese side to join the Club World Cup of continental champions since the competition was created in 2005.

It combined the traditional Intercontinental Cup -- contested between the champions of Europe and South America -- and a one-off world club championship in 2000.

Washington, who had been in the Brazil team alongside Milan playmaker Kaka, defender Cafu and goalkeeper Dida in 2002 before being sidelined with a heart problem, said he had been disappointed not to be able to finish recent games.

"But now I managed to score a goal and contributed to the team. I think we played fine football as a team," added the striker, who is expected to move to Brazil's Fluminense.

To the Serie A side however, Urawa are an almost unknown quantity.

"I have seen Washington in Brazil. He is an excellent player and we have to watch out against him, but I know little about the others," midfielder Emerson, another former Brazil international, freely admitted.

Milan coach Carlos Ancelotti, who has studied Urawa on video, said: "We are most worried about forward Washington."

But Kaka, the prestigious French Ballon d'Or player of the year, said: "I'm not thinking about our opponents in this World Cup, my only thought is bringing the Cup to Milan."

The other semi-final here Wednesday pits Argentina's Boca Juniors against Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, with Boca firm favourites to advance.

If results go to form, the Yokohama final will see Milan and Boca clashing again. Both won the Intercontinental Cup three times with the Argentine giants whipping the Rossoneri in the 2003 final.