When In Japan, Do As We Did in 2009: Barça vs Al-Sadd

CWC Preview: Barcelona – Al-Sadd, Thursday 5:30amET, Fox Soccer/Fox Deportes

The FIFA Club World Cup is upon us. Barça are already in the semis thanks to its seeding as the European Champion (the South American champion, Santos, was also seeded directly into the semifinals). This year’s edition is Barça’s third time in the competition, having lost in the finals in 2006 to Brazilian squad Internacional and won the competition in 2009 by defeating Argentine club Estudiantes in extra time. The goal that won it?

Who needs feet? (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue; Examiner.com)

And now the team returns to the Land of the Rising Sun, a place that is steeped in history and currently still working through its recent (has it really been 9 months already?) tsunami and nuclear meltdown. It’s always a hard test and this year doesn’t look to be any different. Guardiola is worried about jetlag and a possible clásico hangover (and who JDS might have just shacked up with?) while the team is probably worried about that 13 hour flight home they’ll have to embark on soon. At least the L’Hospitalet Copa del Rey first leg went according to plan, so there shouldn’t be too hard a return to Spain.

The semifinal is pretty much David vs Goliath, but this time I’m on the side of the big juggernaut. The underdog, the little engine that could of football, is Al-Sadd, a Qatari team that wasn’t even supposed to be in the Asian Champions League, but wound up there thanks to the disqualification of Vietnamese teams and those qualification spots being awarded to Qatar’s 2009-10 runner up. Al-Sadd went through those qualifiers like a bat out of hell, thrashing Syrian outfit Al-Ittihad 5-1 and then Indian club Dempo 2-0 to reach the group stage.

The team then finished first in their 4-team group despite drawing 4 times. The key was that they didn’t lose and that put them through. In case you didn’t know, the Asian Champions League is very similar to the European Champions League’s format and moves on to a round of 16 after the group stage. The difference is that the first knockout round is a one-leg affair. In that first knockout round, Al-Sadd beat Saudi side Al-Shabab 1-0 to move on and face Iranian side Sepahan. Al-Sadd proceeded to lose both quarterfinal matches (0-1 and 2-1), but earned their spot in the semifinal when Sepahan was charged with fielding an ineligible player in their first match; the punishment was a 3-0 forfeit. You can read about the somewhat strange affair here.

The semfinal was also not without its little moment of controversy. While facing off against Korean side Suwon Samsung Bluewings, in the 80th minute, Korean defender Choi Sung-Hwan took a cleat to the face in an accidental maiming while Al-Sadd’s Taher Zakaria, who kicked Choi in the face, got his ankle rolled over by the falling Sung-Hwan. It was all very ugly and looked quite painful for both players, with Sung-Hwan coming out the worse for wear. Suwon put the ball out of play, but on the restart, instead of sending it back to the Bluewings, Al-Sadd’s Ivorian international Abdoul Kader Keita  looped the ball over the top to a racing Mamadou Niang who was in on goal alone and deftly rounded the keeper to make it 2-0. The Korean reaction was furious. Things quickly spilled over into a fight as several substitutes got into it with players and coaches and probably ball boys. You can watch it here. Given that Suwon won the second leg 1-0 and would have gone to extra time were it not for that goal probably makes things all the harder to stomach for fans of that Korean team.

It’s not that they’re “dirty” players or “cheaters”, though–clearly the Suwon players, being down 1-0 in the 80th minute, put the ball back into the penalty area in an attempt to score despite two players being on the ground and then only put it out for a throw in once they were no longer in a threatening position. It’s hard to argue that they should have sent it calmly back, but it’s also hard to argue that they’re not dicks for having failed to do so. Whatever, the point is that they’re willing to go and get themselves a goal if it helps their cause, for right or wrong. Morality is relative and often called upon by those who have some sort of a pony in a thoroughbred race.

As usual, I digress. Back to the real topic. The Asian CL final a 2-2 affair between Al-Sadd and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors that obviously ended in a penalty shootout. Al-Sadd won 4-2 and earned their second continental title. Their first was the old Asian Club Championship in 1989. So now they’re champions and are currently 5th in the Qatari league after 8 matches (they have a game in hand).

Let’s talk a bit of conspiracy theory, though, because, well, that is some fun nonsense sometimes. Their chairman is none other than Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who you’ll remember was the chair of the Qatar2022 bid, which had one Josep Guardiola on their payroll as a spokesman throughout the bidding process. Obviously there’s some serious conflict of interest and if Barça loses, it is because al Thani is the son of the other al Thani out there and [dramatic music] his second wife, the one who heads the Qatar Foundation. That would be Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned if you don’t care to Google.

So yeah, Al-Sadd has some financial ties to Barcelona, but that, I don’t suppose, is particularly odd given today’s global economy and the way that money sweeps all before it. I’m going to guess, without having done any research whatsoever, that the same sort of weird connect-the-dots could be made with Santos. I don’t believe this means anything, not with Guardiola at the helm along with his burning desire for more trophies. He’s like some sort of obsessed crazy man when it comes to trophies. I imagine his wife gives him trophies: “If you take the little one to school better than Mourinho takes his kid to school, you can have a giant piece of metal that I found in the street. Jose is winning right now so get to it.” Then I imagine that Guardiola plans the route to school with ever-changing, always-exacting criteria. “Yesterday Avenida Blah Blah had a traffic rate of 33.2 cars per minute. Calle Yadda Yadda had only 33.194. We’ll be taking Calle Yadda Yadda at 38kph so that we don’t get behind the school bus that turns left onto…” You get the idea.

Obviously, how Barça lineup and what tactics they use is determined by how Al-Sadd plays normally. Fortunately, I just happen to be one of the preeminent scholars of the Qatari league and know exactly what they bring to the table. Rejoice! I’ve even compiled it into a very handy youtube clip so you don’t have to read.

Very well, then. Now that we’ve covered all of that, what about their best players? Throughout the Asian CL, they didn’t have a single goal scorer with more than 3 goals to his name. Compare that to Jeonbuck, who had the top two scorers on their team (Lee Dong-Gook with 9 and Eninho with 7) and it becomes a question of how effective their defense was rather than how powerful their offense. They allowed 11 goals throughout the tournament proper (as in, not counting qualifying rounds) and scored 16. That’s not the usual hallmark of a champion (to use Jeonbuck again, they went 33GF and 12GA including the final), but it was enough and they’ll look to do the same to Barça. Overlooking them would be a ridiculous mistake and one that Guardiola is unlikely to make, no matter how much the team wants to play Santos.

Predicted Lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Villa, Messi.

I think we roll into them with the big guns and let the shotpower do the talking. Guardiola will want to keep the clásico momentum going rather than letting the team relax, so it’ll be press first and ask questions later. As for the final result…

Official Prediction: Barça 3 – 0 Al-Sadd. I’m overconfident and I know it. You can lambaste me for it when the match is really tough and we have a hard time with them, but I went relatively pessimistic for the clásico and now I can’t help but feel like we’re superior to every team on earth by some margin. That Al-Sadd has done little (other than, you know, win) to dispel those thoughts is another reason for the prediction.

Since I haven’t actually mentioned it: Al-Sadd qualified for the semis with a 2-1 victory over Tunisian side Espérance, which shouldn’t be confused with Tunisian side, uh, Espérance. One is from Tunis and the other from Zarzis. How hard is that to understand…says the guy who totally read up on the one from Zarzis and was super confused for like 3 minutes.

Anyway, here’s hoping that the following scene is repeated on Sunday:

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar; Examiner.com


By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


    1. If there is no one else available, I’ll volunteer. I’ll be home from work in time to catch it.

    2. You’ll make me blush, Kari. It’s no big deal. Besides, I just glad that people are forgiving of any mess-ups that happened the last time I managed a Liveblog.

      I might need a bit of help getting set up though. Unless all I have to do is follow the instructions given to me previously.

    3. It’s a massive deal! You did great last time, so no worries there. Think Isaiah set you up last time, no? Well, I’m not sure what exactly he told you but the instructions are the same.

      In any case, just email me at officialkari@gmail.com and I’ll get you set up.

  1. Ugh, how am I going to watch this? I guess I could wake up at 2:30 in the morning to watch. Wait, no. That’s madness. Damned time zones.

    1. LOL, not madness if you get used to it. 😀

      here we must wake up at 02:00, 03:00, 04:00, 05:00 AM to watch La Liga/UCL game. every single week.

      that’s why EPL has a better marketing in Asia.

    2. Woah. That’s dedication! You get a blaugrana star! I’ll probably wake up to watch, while nodding off, in bed.

    3. hey, that’s why, for our sacrifices and dedications, Asians are the real football fans 😛

      j/k of course 😀

    4. I’ll probably wake up to watch, while nodding off, in bed.

      that’s me, every single week. I fell asleep a lot during matches. 😆

    5. yeah, la liga must consider to shift the match time to suit better with Asian viewers, like EPL

      I dont watch many la liga games, except Barca. Because if i follow the match time, I’ll certainly die on the weekdays because lack of sleep 🙂

  2. Of course Villa starts! He’ll be so excited 🙂

    Is the final to be played at this ungodly hour also?? Since I can’t watch the game at home I will end up missing it. No bar will open at 5h30 in the morning to show the game 🙁

    I got nothing against Asians, but dayumnnnn why do the real football fans have to suffer just so that FIFA can make a bit more money. Show the game in time zones where people care about the sport!!

    1. It’s so Barcagirl_Indo and all the other Asians can laugh at us suffering the pain they suffer on a regular basis. Darn you, Sepp! Don’t think you can solve this by a handshake! 👿

      The assassination of my beauty sleep aside, hope we smack ’em with a manita or something. Fontas hattrick, Villa and Pedro.

    2. So you differentiate between real football fans and asians?
      I hope you didn’t ’cause otherwise your post smarks of a firstworldproblems meme

    3. are you saying that Asians are not real football fans? 😯

      muahahahaha… how happy I am just to know you guys will suffer for once in a while like us… waking up in a damn cold morning to watch footies.. 😈

    4. Lev, I am sure you got nothing against Asians, coz your dumb head is shallow enough not to have any idea about anything on earth. Keep your smirk on while watching the match

  3. I watched so many Barca games in Japan at ungodly hours, but at least over here it’s only 5:30am. Looks like I’ll be getting some Barca action before heading to work!

  4. *http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story/_/id/978894/duerden:-bad-boys-raise-acl-profile-ahead-of-final?cc=5901

    al sadd being al-badd

  5. Not going to get up for a 5:30 game when I have to leave the house at 6:30 and would miss the second half. I’ll make the effort on Sunday, though, assuming we get through to the final.

    I posted my preferred lineup in the previous thread, but here it is again:

    Alves Mascherano Abidal Adriano
    Xavi Busquets Thiago
    Pedro Messi Villa

    Subs: Keita, Maxwell, Fontas Cuenca

    Save Puyol and Iniesta for the final against Neymar Santos.

  6. Nice preview, thanks Isaiah.
    I too believe in some conspiracy theories, and this has something extremely physhy about it. Being part of the Qatari League (who won the WC bid in a corruption scandal), and those strange things happen…well well.
    About the line-up, I don´t think as Blitzen, that Puyol will start in 8 hours. Mostly because there was an article in Sport saying that in the Clasico’s last minutes, Puyol was fatigued or something like that, and Pep told him to hang on.
    We may see Mascherano back there. I hope for Cuenca to be a starter.
    Crazy prediction; we will see Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, and Leo Messi on the line up. Yes, I finally predicted a Pep line-up.

  7. Guess I’d better forget about sleeping before my last final exam. 😐

    Don’t care much about the line-up as long as we win and that Alexis starts 🙂

    1. why not? Pep take this tournament very seriously.

      he put a strong starting line up against Hospitalet.

    2. Because it’s not the final, jet lag, squad rotation, health concerns, other bits and pieces.

      I’m telling you now, it will be a shadow of the starting 11 you would expect in a final or a bigger game.

      We’ll see if I am correct.

    3. even if you are right, I believe our not-so-strong line up still have Messi in it. maybe with Pedro and David Villa upfront. or Cuenca/Alexis/Cesc.

      that is a strong starting line up for me, tbh.

      but maybe Pep will rest Puyol and Xavi.

  8. Been a while since I was rick rolled -_-‘

    Hopefully we come through this unscathed and then get a good cl draw on Friday.

  9. Nice GIF’s on the previous thread. Too bad Gnegeri didn’t make one where Iniesta chipped the ball towards an oncoming Coentrao.

    Another nice one would also include the Iniesta vs Coentrao battle when Coentrao mistimed his challenge on Don Andres and was frustrated CR7 style 😆

    1. you will love it, barcelona is such an amazing city to live in, best times of my life. Watching the game from so cal isn’t too bad, 230am-4am. See everyone at the liveblog. Visca Barca!

    2. I’ll be watching it straight after work, it feels so weird watching at 9:30pm, but I LOVE IT!

      I remember the days back in 08/09 where I’d get up usually 4-5am in the morning for every single Barca game of the season, I roughly missed no more than 5-6 games that season.

      For all those European viewers, just go with fbtz.com and download the recording. you keep ur beauty sleep and you get to watch the match as many times as you want 😀

      rojadirecta is a good alternative.

    3. Thanks man, I was there before for quite some time so yeah, it’s the place to be for sure.

      Not that Australia isn’t amazing, but Barcelona is my spiritual home for a long time now lol.

    4. Add me in that group then..for now I am in Oz time so this FIFA CWC thingy is primetime footy for me 😀

    5. Definitely lucky. Though Bali was an amazing place to visit, LOVED monkey forest! lol. Grew up in Southern California and have had the chance to live off and on since 06 in Barcelona, though im very jealous of my sister who was living there when spain won the world cup and i was already back in Los Angeles. Such an awesome place, definitely feels like home every time i go back, especially with the amazing friends i have made over the years. But i must say, Australia is pretty amazing as well, beautiful and very very clean, like Tokyo clean.
      But what i would give to breathe the night air of barcelona once more. The sounds you hear when walking around at 3am in the gothic quarters or bourn help lift the soul. And never have i experienced such peace and tranquility in a city at any hour of every day. Say what you will, but that city has everything to offer. Especially with the natural high that you get when attending barca matches, truly something else.

  10. My sincere apologies to everyone.

    Despite my desire to run the LiveBlog, I won’t be able to do so as my internet connection at home is still down and it doesn’t look as though it’ll be fixed by kick-off time. 🙁

    Have fun without me and may our boys win.

  11. gotta dash home from work… weeh, finally a Barça match I could watch without the risk of swollen eye bags and dark under-eye.:)
    lookin outside my office window, i know only The Yellow Sea and a peninsula separate me from my beloved Barça..sigh.. I wish I could teleport to Japan..

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