Popovic looks to young Wanderers

Tony Popovic says Western Sydney’s youngsters will get a chance to tackle Africa’s best as the Wanderers look to end their FIFA Club World Cup campaign on a high.

The Asian champions lost 2-1 to Cruz Azul of Mexico in atrocious conditions on Sunday morning (AEDT), giving up the lead late on and finishing the match with just nine men as the CONCACAF Champions League holders triumphed in extra-time on a water-logged pitch.

First-choice central defenders Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Matthew Spiranovic are both suspended for the fifth-place playoff game against ES Setif of Algeria, prompting Popovic to forecast the inclusion of some new faces for the clash in Rabat.

“Missing Matty Spiranovic and Nikolai through suspension it gives a few other players an opportunity,” he said.

“We’ve got young players here who are thoroughly enjoying the experience of being at this tournament and I believe they’ll get an opportunity now.”

Three teenagers, Jaushua Sotirio, Daniel Alessi and Alusine Fofanah, the latter two both just 17, are with the squad in Morocco, but it remains to be seen if any of the raw trio starts.

Rather than treating the game as a dead rubber, Popovic expects Setif to be determined to make amends for their shock defeat at the hands of Oceania’s semi-professional Auckland City.

“We saw their game against Auckland and what we saw was a very good team; very good individuals,” he said.

“They have a lot of players who have the individual talent to win the game on their own. We have to be well aware of that. They’ll probably feel unlucky that they didn’t go through but certainly played well in the match.

“We’re looking forward to it. We want to show our best in this tournament and I’m sure they’ll want to finish on a high as well. I’m sure you’ll see both teams go out to win the game. We certainly want to do that and put on another good performance.”