The 2020 FIFA World Cup is underway, and Concacaf Champions League winners Tigres UANL are one game away from reaching the international competition’s final.
Tigres, who beat LAFC 2-1 in the one-off CCL championship match this past December, pulled off a 2-1 victory Thursday over South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai FC, the AFC Champions League representative. The win set up a semifinal on Sunday against Brazil’s Palmeiras, the Copa Libertadores winners.
There were further MLS links in Thursday's matchup. The opening goal of the game arrived in the 24th minute off a header from a corner converted by former Seattle Sounders MLS Cup-winning center back Kim Kee-hee.
But soon after, French striker Andre Pierre-Gignac, who got the winner for Tigres in the 2020 CCL final against LAFC, took over. Gignac scored in the 38th minute and first-half stoppage time, capping the come-from-behind effort.
Gignac first scored off a corner-kick routine himself, then netted a penalty kick after Video Review deemed that Kim handled the ball in the 18-yard box. As Liga MX and CCL followers have come to know well, the 35-year-old Gignac made Ulsan Hyundai pay; he now has nearly 150 goals since arriving in 2015 from Ligue 1 side Marseille.
Tigres UANL secured their first trip to the Club World Cup having defeated New York City FC in the CCL quarterfinals (5-0 on aggregate) before knocking off LAFC. Last year’s continental tournament was paused in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then resumed with an adjusted knockout format in December at Exploria Stadium, home of Orlando City SC.
The 2020 Club World Cup is being played in Qatar, with the other semifinalist (either Al-Duhail or Al Ahly) facing UEFA Champions League winners and Bundesliga powerhouse side Bayern Munich. The final is scheduled for Feb. 11.
Tigres UANL have been a regional powerhouse in recent years, making another three CCL finals between 2016-19 and taking home the inaugural Campeones Cup in 2018 with a win over Toronto FC at BMO Field. Led by manager Ricardo Ferretti, their team includes Mexico national team stars such as center back Carlos Salcedo, midfielder Jesus Duenas and winger Javier Aquino.