Pohang a step closer to the FIFA Club finals

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Pohang a step closer to the FIFA Club finals

The Pohang Steelers, the AFC Champions League winners, are eyeing the finals of the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Representing the Asian region in the tournament - which features the six regional champions plus the host team U.A.E.’s Al Ahli FC - Pohang defeated TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the quarterfinals by a score of 2-1 to book a spot in the semifinals.

Next up: Estudiantes of Argentina on Tuesday. Pohang manager Sergio Farias is confident about the chances of his squad making it to the finals.

“Our goal is to reach the finals. I don’t think we pale in comparison to the other teams competing in the tournament,” Farias said in a post-game interview.

“Our opponents have many quality players, so it will be a tough test. However, we have many experienced players. They should not take us lightly,” he said.

As Farias has pointed out, Estudiantes boasts several world-class players on its roster. Mauro Boselli led the team with eight goals in the tournament, and former Manchester United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron has chipped in on offense too.

Aside from the two stars up front, Estudiantes also feature a reliable goalkeeper in Mariano Andujar and a veteran defender in Rolando Schiavi. Estudiantes this year became only the second Argentine club, along with the Boca Juniors, to win the Copa Libertadores in 13 years. This year’s title was Estudiantes’ fourth overall and first in 39 years.

“Our opponents are creative on offense and are also physically strong. We will have to play at our very best,” Farias said. “We will need to work on providing our forwards with accurate passes.”

The other semifinals match includes Concacaf Champions League winners Atlante FC and Uefa Champions League winners FC Barcelona, who will meet on Wednesday.

Pohang met TP Mazembe in a quarterfinals matchup on Saturday at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi under rainfall. Pohang did not get off to a good start, as Mbenza Bedi scored the opening goal in the 28th minute of the match.

However, with the rain coming to a stop at halftime, Pohang came out ready to play. Pohang pressed their opponents in the second half with solid passing work. No Byung-jun partnered with Denilson up front and the two worked together to produce the team’s first goal. No lofted a pass from the left side of the penalty box and Denilson managed to place the header in the back of the net in the 50th minute. With the game leveled at one goal apiece, Pohang continued to press, and the go-ahead goal came in the 78th minute as Hwang Jin-sung threaded a pass to Denilson, who completed the breakaway with a shot past the TP Mazembe goalkeeper. With the win, Pohang not only advanced to the semifinals but also secured at least a $2 million cash prize, which is reserved for the fourth-place team. The third-place team receives $2.5 million, the second gets $4 million and the winner of the tourney receives $5 million.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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