Yes they can.

Yes they did.

Western Sydney Wanderers planted their red and black flag on the summit of Asian football this morning by winning The Asian Champions League.

It is the single greatest achievement in the history of Australian football and the most important moment in Australian sport for 2014.

Bossin' it. Tony Popovic celebrates a famous win.

Bossin' it. Tony Popovic celebrates a famous win.

With a scoreless draw against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in Riyadh overnight, The Wanderers were crowned Kings of Asian club football on the back of Tommy Juric's precious goal in their 1-0 win in the first leg of the final at Paramatta last weekend.

In the space of 4 short years The Wanderers have gone from a club that was a dream waiting to be realised for the people of Western Sydney to becoming a regional football powerhouse.

And they've had to do it the hard way.

Last night's battling performance was trademark Wanderers.

Away from home, in a stadium salivating at the prospect of their demise, Popovic's men were calm, organised, determined, focussed and resilient. Their reward was the sweetest scoreless draw they will ever play.

  There it is...  welcome to Wanderland

 

There it is...  welcome to Wanderland


Up until now, The Asian Champions League has seemed a bridge too far for Australia's A League teams.

Adelaide United had made the greatest inroads in the competition, contesting the final against Japan's Gamba Osaka in 2008.

Otherwise, it's been all too hard.

Big Asian clubs like Al Hilal are cashed up and resource rich. The Western Sydney Wanderers still train out of a modest sports complex in Blacktown that most private schools in Australia would blanch at.

Consider this. Tony Popovic's squad that qualified The Western Sydney Wanderers for the Champions League said goodbye to 8 players before the start of the knock out phase of the competition.

That sort of player churn would ruin even the best laid plans by the finest clubs in the world.

Added to squad restrictions, a salary cap and a season out of sync with the rest of Asia, Australian teams have found the competition to be more of a distraction than an opportunity.

Not any more.

With this victory, The Western Sydney Wanderers have completed Australian football's integration into Asia. Coupled with hosting The AFC Asian Cup in January, Australian football has truly found its home in the region.

  Shout it out loud. Tony Popovic and his players celebrate.

 

Shout it out loud. Tony Popovic and his players celebrate.

The win also underlines one of the games greatest assets - its ability to reach beyond these shores in a meaningful and substantial manner. 

Whilst Rugby League trundles on with an anaemic 4 Nations tournament and the AFL continues to pursue its farcical International Rules series with a game no one plays and fewer people care about, Australian football is taking to the world stage.

Closer to home, the battle of the codes in Sydney's western suburbs may be over.

Todays' win ensures it's Wanderers territory - at least for now. 

And having won a berth at the FIFA Club World Championship in Morocco in December, the world awaits.

From Rooty Hill to Riyadh and beyond.

Wanderland indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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