Asian football has improved out of sight but as David Carney points out, Asian Champions League opponents Urawa Red Diamonds have been mastering the tactical game for a decade.
Sydney FC are on the cusp of making club history, needing only to draw with the J-League giants at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night to seal a spot in the ACL's last 16 for the first time.
Despite stalling in the A-League, the Sky Blues have carved up the continent with victory in every match since February's opening 2-0 capitulation to Urawa Reds.
Carney didn't travel for that game, making this his first reunion with the side since he was memorably frustrated by them nine years ago.
The well-travelled former Socceroo was part of the Sky Blues line-up that hosted the Reds in the 2007 ACL - the first time a continental team had ever travelled to Sydney.
He scored the early opener but Sydney were held to a 2-2 draw, eventually failing to advance past the group stage and watching as the Japanese outfit rode momentum all the way to the silverware.
Carney remembers well the large contingent of travelling fans that night, but even better he recalls the Reds' tactical prowess, which he believes has only improved.
The 32-year-old cited their ability to punish the smallest of errors, which they duly did twice in that 2-0 opener at Saitama Stadium.
"Urawa Reds have got their discipline in place - they've always had that," Carney told AAP.
"Their foreigners are obviously good, but the whole squad are very disciplined and very well-structured.
"They've got players everywhere.
"Tactically from a defensive point of view they overload their wingers, though they do give you a bit of room in the attack so hopefully we can exploit them there.
"But also overall the game's a lot quicker now and Asia's become stronger ... it's credit to Sydney FC and the way we're playing, and shows the A-League itself is amongst Asia's elite."
While Sydney are extremely well-placed to progress, Graham Arnold's side are aiming higher - to finish top of Group H and ensure a more favourable round of 16 match-up.
They're leading and two points ahead of the Reds in the ACL's so-called group of death, which also features defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande and the most successful team in Asian history, Korea's Pohang Steelers.
Carney described Sydney's success in Asia as bittersweet, admitting it hurt having to watch the weekend's A-League finals in the knowledge his team had not made the cut.
"The only thing we can do is carry on now and play well in the ACL," he said.
"We've achieved so much in the ACL but let ourselves down in the league.
"There's nothing we can do now - it's passed, so we just think about the future."