Yokohama F·Marinos dreaming of continental glory in maiden AFC Champions League semi-final

Yokohama F·Marinos dreaming of continental glory in maiden AFC Champions League semi-final

Yokohama F·Marinos are one of Japan’s biggest clubs and have won nearly every trophy on offer, but there is one piece of silverware that has eluded them - the AFC Champions League.

This could be the year that the Tricolor finally reach the summit of Asian club football, with their maiden semi-final coming up against Ulsan Hyundai and the storied club standing a two-legged tie away from a shot at glory in the final.

Marinos have not had an easy road to Asia’s final four, with a hard-fought group stage seeing them barely squeeze into the knockout stages. It took extra-time for F·Marinos to topple Thailand’s Bangkok United in the Round of 16 before China’s Shandong Taishan presented another stiff challenge in the quarter-finals, where Yokohama would prevail 3-1 on aggregate.

The road to the semis has proven that the Tricolor have what it takes to survive in close games. That could be key against Ulsan, one of the K League’s top teams who have last year’s domestic title in their cabinet along with a pair of AFC Champions League crowns.

Obtaining a result in South Korea will be far from easy and Yokohama manager Harry Kewell will be hoping his team can quickly turn the page and rebound from a disappointing 2-2 draw with Shonan Bellmare over the weekend.

Ulsan are unlikely to find it easy as well, though. As is always the case, the Marinos forward line will be dangerous, especially on the counter. This is a team largely built around the brilliance of their Brazilian attackers, especially last year's J1 co-Top Scorer Anderson Lopes.

Kewell has clearly made this tournament a priority, rotating the squad ahead of the semi-final first leg.

Whether it pays off in Ulsan remains to be seen, but Yokohama's eyes are well and truly on the AFC Champions League prize as they chase that elusive first continental crown.