Korean squads looking for back-to-back titles

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Korean squads looking for back-to-back titles

With the Pohang Steelers winning the AFC Champions League title last year, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma will look to make back-to-back AFC Champions League titles for a Korean squad tonight at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

The 2010 AFC Champions League tourney featuring 32 professional clubs from all over Asia kicked off its group stage on Feb. 23. Shin Tae-young, the second-year manager of the Seongnam Ilhwa, is hoping the long journey ends with Seongnam’s second Asian title.

“We had the opportunity to win the Asian Club Championship in 1995 and we took it,” Shin said. “I’ve told my players that playing in the AFC Champions League final can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so they must concentrate and take the title.”

Shin will have to depend heavily on his Colombian midfielder Mauricio Molina tonight because forward Dzenan Radoncic and defenders Jeon Kwang-jin and Hong Cheol will not be available. Molina is second on the list of leading scorers for the 2010 AFC Champions League tourney with seven goals.

Shin is coming off a rookie season as a manager who took fourth-seeded Seongnam to the finals before losing to Jeonbuk Motors in the finals. Seongnam also came close to winning the FA Cup before bowing out to the Suwon Bluewings on penalty kicks. The 40-year-old manager is now looking forward to taking the next step.

“Losing in the final of the FA Cup and the K-League playoffs last year actually taught me a lot of lessons, so now it’s time for me and the team to step up and win,” stated Shin.

Zobahan of the Iran Pro League finished first in its group to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League for the first time in club history. Zobahan defeated Pohang to an aggregate score of 3-2 in the quarterfinals before defeating Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia in the semifinals.

“Seongnam easily disposed of their opponents in the quarterfinals and came back to win the semifinals,” said Zobahan manager Mansour Ebrahimzadeh.

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