Pohang out to defend its honor in AFC tourney

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Pohang out to defend its honor in AFC tourney

The Pohang Steelers, the reigning Asian Football Confederation Champions League winner, will kick-start an effort to defend the title tomorrow.

With the group stage of the tourney getting under way this week, three other K-League clubs will join Pohang as each attempts to earn the title of best professional football club of Asia in 2010.

Pohang will start the tourney on the road against Aussie club Adelaide United tomorrow at 6 p.m. Under Brazilian manager Sergio Farias, Pohang won the 2009 AFC Champions League title and was honored as the best professional club of the year at the AFC Annual Awards last year while playing an entertaining brand of attack-minded football.

The reigning champs will have to defend their title with several big changes to key positions on their roster. Farias signed with the Al Ahli of the Saudi League, and replacing him will be another Brazilian manager, Waldemar Lemos. Gone are forwards Denilson and Stevica Ristic, integral players who carried Pohang’s offense last season. In an attempt to bolster the depleted roster, Pohang’s front office signed former national team forward Seol Ki-hyeon and Brazilian forwards Alexandro, Mota and Almir.

“Alex is a striker who knows how to get into good positions and score goals,” stated Lemos on the club Web site. “He will add a new dimension to our attacking lineup.”

Lemos has promised to maintain the up-tempo style of play and the Brazilian manager will be put to the test against Adelaide United, Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan and Shandong Luneng of China in Group H.

Jeonbuk Motors, last year’s K-League champs, will travel to Jayapura, Indonesia, to play in its first group stage match against Persipura Jayapura of Liga Indonesia tomorrow at 9 p.m.

Starting the 2010 AFC Champions League campaign on home ground are the Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and the Suwon Bluewings. Seongnam will host last year’s J-League runner-up, Kawasaki Frontale, tomorrow at 7 p.m. Adding to the intrigue of the matchup is Kawasaki’s North Korean forward, Jong Tae-se. The 26-year-old forward scored a total of 14 league goals and two goals in nine Champions League appearances last year.

Seongnam, which managed to advance to the finals of the K-League Championships last year before losing to eventual champion Jeonbuk, lost its captain, Kim Jung-woo, to mandatory military service, and reliable midfielder Lee Ho signed with Al Ain FC of the United Arab Emirates. Despite the losses, Seongnam has failed to bolster its lineup with new signees.

Last season’s FA Cup winners, the Suwon Bluewings, will host Gamba Osaka of J-League tomorrow at the Suwon World Cup Stadium starting at 7:30 p.m.

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