Urawa Red Diamonds proving the real deal by continuing AFC Champions League rampage with BG Pathum United rout

Urawa Red Diamonds are through to the 2022-23 AFC Champions League semifinals after a dominant 4-0 win over BG Pathum United in Monday's quarterfinal clash at Saitama Stadium 2002. Kenta Harada/Getty Images

The whole being greater that the sum of its parts could possibly never have been a more appropriate description than when referring to Urawa Red Diamonds.

Especially in the AFC Champions League.

For a team that has never finished higher than fifth in the J1 League in the past five years, and last won their domestic title all the way back in 2006, Urawa somehow just find a way to rise to the occasion on the continental stage.

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On Monday, the Japanese outfit continued their rampage with a 4-0 rout of Thailand's BG Pathum United to take their tally to nine goals scored and none conceded in their past two outings, following an equally dominant display against Johor Darul Ta'zim in last Friday's Round of 16 tie.

They now march on into an East Zone semifinal meeting with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Thursday.

While the fellow two-time champions will pose a far sterner test, Urawa -- based on the football they have displayed over the past two matches and with a fervent Saitama Stadium 2002 crowd behind them -- should head into the tie as favourites.

Win, and they will be through to a third ACL final in six years -- with a chance to claim a first continental crown since their most recent triumph in 2017.

Not too bad for a team who just cannot seem to replicate such a title challenge on home soil.

But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Urawa's success so far is their ability to do so with some fairly modest personnel, a feature not dissimilar to previous iterations of the team.

The current squad features just two players who have been capped at senior level by Japan and only one is a current international -- right-back Hiroki Sakai, arguably the most famous of the Urawa's present crop from his spells in Europe with Hannover and Marseille.

The other is goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, who -- while at one time a contender for the Samurai Blue's No. 1 jersey -- has not featured for his national team since 2016.

Meanwhile, although arriving with an impressive resume is never a guarantee of success (on the contrary, some of Asian football's greatest imports have arrived with humble backgrounds), there was understandably little fanfare when Urawa sealed their captures of David Moberg Karlsson, Alexander Scholz and Kasper Junker.

Yet, all three have contributed significantly to the Reds' ACL charge.

In the absence of genuine star quality, Urawa have thrived on an ensemble of less-heralded names bereft of big egos, who have all seemingly bought into coach Ricardo Rodriguez's high-intensity brand of football.

At the back, in addition to Nishikawa's immense experience, Sakai, Scholz and Takuya Iwanami -- standing at an average height of 1.87 metres -- easily strike fear in the hearts of opposition attackers.

When Karlsson, Yoshio Koizumi and Yusuke Matsuo are not tormenting the opposition with the ball at their feet, they are causing equal grief by pressing them right in their own penalty area.

Ken Iwao and Atsuki Ito thrive on doing the dirty work for the team in the middle of the park but are also equally capable of contributing to forward forays.

Yoshio who? And Atsuki who? Those may be fair if slightly discourteous questions, but they should hardly bother the Reds.

There was also a time when similar queries would have been posed --Wataru who? Tomoaki who? And Shinzo who?

Wataru Endo now captains Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart, Tomoaki Makino featured for Japan at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while Shinzo Koroki is one of Japanese football's most-prolific strikers with over 200 goals to his name even if he has never plied his trade abroad.

The common denominator between the trio and several others? They were all once members of an Urawa team whose whole was clearly greater than the sum of its parts when they won the ACL in 2017.

Six years on, the same formula might once again work for the Reds.