Saturday 10 December 2016, 23:43

Ochoa recalls Club America's 2006 meeting with Jeonbuk

Football is full of coincidences, and this fixture has plenty of them. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Club America meet again on the same date and at the same stage of the competition as they did ten years ago as they look to seal a place in the semi-finals at Japan 2016.

"I remember it being a difficult game, they were quick and direct," said Mexican goalkeeper and Club America legend Guillermo Ochoa, when asked to recall his memories of the quarter-final encounter between the two teams at Japan 2006. Depending on your point of view, either a great deal or not very much at all has changed since then.

In the intervening period Las Aguilas have become Mexico's most successful club, taking their haul of league titles to 12 and securing a seventh CONCACAF Champions League triumph. The Green Warriors, for their part, have dominated the K-League Classic and won four championships. One thing that has not changed is the difficulty such fixtures pose for sides who go into them as favourites.

"To be honest, we arrived without knowing very much about their team," continued Ochoa, who played in that match at Tokyo's National Stadium on 11 December 2006. "We watched a couple of videos but in the end it was difficult to know how they play." The match itself was far from a formality, and became a nervy affair. America dominated but were unable to make their pressure count, which served to encourage their Asian opposition.

"You have to be careful against teams like that," said Ochoa, who currently dons his gloves for Granada CF. "We were better in the first half but they made life hard for us after the break." In the end, however, after Ochoa made several saves to keep the side from Korea Republic at bay, Ricardo Rojas scored with his chest in the closing stages to seal Club America's passage into the last four.

There, however, they lost to an FC Barcelona team spearheaded by Ronaldinho, Andres Iniesta and Rafael Marquez.

No room for complacency Dozens of teams dream of reaching the Club World Cup but only seven can make it. Some therefore look forward to the prospect of having the chance to test themselves against the European or South American champions, especially given the global importance of the games.

However, those dreams occasionally turn into nightmares, as Club America found out first-hand last year when they suffered a defeat in their opening game against China PR side Guangzhou Evergrande, which saw them miss out on a dream semi-final tie with Barcelona. "You shouldn't underestimate anybody or hold anything back in the first game," said Ochoa, who has participated at three Club World Cups.

Asked for his thoughts on a potential semi-final between Club America and Real Madrid, Ochoa was optimistic: "It would be a really difficult game but if America have a good day then they can get a good result. Mexican football has to start making the most of these opportunities and hopefully they can spring a surprise."

A fan of Los Azulcremas at heart, Ochoa will be cheering them on in the deja vu encounter against Jeonbuk in Osaka.