Yokohama F·Marinos go for continental glory in AFC Champions League final

Yokohama F·Marinos go for continental glory in AFC Champions League final

Yokohama F·Marinos are one of the biggest clubs in all of Japan, with massive support and a trophy case filled with five Meiji Yasuda J1 League titles and even more silverware from the J.League and Emperor's Cups.

And yet, for all their success, the AFC Champions League has eluded them. In five trips to the competition, the Tricolor had never won a knockout stage match. That is until this year, when F·Marinos won their group and vanquished three opponents in the knockout stages to reach their very first AFC Champions League final.

Now, they stand on the precipice of continental glory.

The final foe in Marinos’ way is the United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain, who feature one of Asia’s most dangerous attacks. They scored 17 goals in six group stage matches and have kept that up in the knockout stages, where they have tallied 11 times in their six matches.

Moroccan international Soufiane Rahimi has led not just Al Ain but the entire tournament in goals with 11 and he’s been supported by Togolese international Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba, whose six goals rank fourth in the competition.

The Emirati side will ask questions of the Tricolor defense, but Yokohama have shown they can rise to the occasion. They allowed only seven goals in a high-powered group and were able to keep a very good Ulsan Hyundai side off the scoresheet for more than a half plus extra time despite being down to 10 men in the second leg of the semi-final - largely thanks to William Popp’s heroics in goal.

If the Tricolor rearguard can hold up, they will be free to unleash their own dangerous attack on Al Ain. Anderson Lopes isn’t just last year’s J1 joint Top Scorer; he’s scored six times in the Champions League, with four of those coming in the knockout stages.

With three goals in each of their knockout-stage ties, manager Harry Kewell has built on his predecessor Kevin Muscat's excellent work to keep the Tricolor attack firing when it matters most. Yokohama are difficult to stop when they are in full flow, with the likes of 22-year-old Asahi Uenaka and the Brazilian trio of Anderson Lopes, Élber and Yan Matheus always dangerous in the final third.

They will need to be over these next two legs if Marinos are to come back to Japan with that elusive AFC Champions League crown and make history.