Popa: ACL success a club and country boost

A proud Tony Popovic has showered praise on his players saying qualifying for the AFC Champions League final is Western Sydney Wanderers FC’s greatest achievement and another boost to the game’s growth in Australia.

The Wanderers completed their remarkable march to the decider with a stunning 2-0 win over FC Seoul at Parramatta Stadium on Wednesday night.

In front of almost 19,000 fans it was goals to Mateo Poljak and Shannon Cole which ensured the historic win, making the Wanderers just the second Australian club – after Adelaide United in 2008 – to make the final.

“I’ve run out of words for the players,” a beaming Popovic said at full-time.

“It is still pre-season for us remember. Mateo’s (Poljak) just come off chicken pox, he’s been in bed for a week. You’ve got (Brendon Santalab) who hasn’t played any minutes due to injury and then a suspension.

“That’s just to name a couple I can go through the whole lot. It’s just a tremendous performance and achievement really.

“We’ve had a lot of special nights and tonight just caps off a special campaign we’ve had so far. We don’t want to just make the final, we want to win it now.”

They may have only been in existence for over two and a half years but the Wanderers have made a habit of success.

They have won a Premiers’ Plate and made two grand finals in the Hyundai A-League but Popovic says making the continental decider tops the lot.

“This is the best. Nothing beats this,” the Wanderers boss said.

“It’s the equivalent of winning a Champions League in Europe. We have a chance now to win the Champions League in Asia. It’s down to two teams and we’re one of them.

“We beat the champions and finalists from last year and that’s great for confidence. 

“When you look at the squads they have, the resources and the quality of players they have, it really puts the achievement right up there.”

The Wanderers will now aim to become the first Aussie side to win the tournament when they take on Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal over two legs.

Its starts with a home leg for the Wanderers on October 25 before they head to Riyadh a week later.

“This is fantastic for Australian football,” Popovic said.

“We have the Asian Cup coming here in January, it will give everyone a boost. The code here in Australia is growing even without this success.

“But we hope now that this helps put Australian football even further on the world map. Night’s like this can only enhance our reputation for football in this country.”

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