ABU DHABI - Former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron takes his Club World Cup bow when Argentina's Estudiantes face Pohang Steelers in Tuesday's semi-final.
The South American Libertadores Cup holders are clear favourites to beat the Asian champions from South Korea and set up a final against Lionel Messi's star-studded Barcelona.
Apart from the playmaking talents of Veron, Estudiantes possess a striker to match Pohang's Brazilian Denilson - scorer of both goals in their 2-1 win over Africa's TP Mazembe in Friday's quarter-final.
Mauro Boselli, on the fringes of Diego Maradona's Argentina squad, went to the Club World Cup in Japan with Boca Juniors in 2007 but remained on the bench in the final defeat by AC Milan.
"When I came with Boca I had been a part of their Libertadores victory...but this year I was fully involved (with Estudiantes), I was the top scorer in the Cup," Boselli told reporters at a training session.
"I hope I can do well (here) because it's my dream and that of my team mates," added the 24-year-old who scored eight goals including the Libertadores title-clincher.
Midfielder Rodrigo Brana said: "Denilson stands out in a team that is more comfortable counter-attacking. We have to try to avoid being surprised by them."
Right winger Enzo Perez added: "They are strong and fast and what surprised us most was how disciplined they are...They have two full-backs who surprise you (attacking), Brazilian style."
In a short, seven-team tournament, the bar is quickly being raised with each succeeding match.
After amateurs Auckland City surprised the hosting United Arab Emirates with a 2-0 win over their champions Al Ahli in the opening match, Pohang Steelers impressed with their tactical nous.
Brazilian coach Sergio Farias' disciplined side overcame the attacking prowess of playmaker Mabi Mputu's Mazembe from the DR Congo 2-1 with a brace from compatriot Denilson.
Oceania champions Auckland were then brought down to earth in a 3-0 defeat by Atlante of the CONCACAF, who paraded the playmaking talents of former Argentina midfielder Santiago Solari and Guillermo Rojas.
The Mexican side now meet favourites Barcelona, a team with an array of world-class players who join the fray in the second semi-final on Wednesday.
Estudiantes, meanwhile, will hope to overcome injury and illness problems with the same resolve they showed as underdogs when they beat Brazil's Cruzeiro away to lift the La Plata club's fourth Libertadores Cup in July.
"As (coach) Alejandro (Sabella) said, this squad gets stronger when the chips are down," said Boselli. "It already happened to us in Brazil with Cruzeiro, where we won a very complicated match."comments