FC Seoul sets its sights on dominating all of Asia

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FC Seoul sets its sights on dominating all of Asia

FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo said yesterday that his team will not only aim to defend its domestic title this year but also seek its first Asian championship.

“My goal for this year is to win the K-League Classic for a second straight time and come out on top of the Champions League,” he told a news conference at the World Cup Stadium in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. “We want to go beyond being No. 1 in Korea and become No. 1 in Asia.”

FC Seoul, the 2012 winner of Korea’s top league, embarks on its first Asian Football Confederation Champions League campaign in two years today.

Paired in Group E, FC Seoul will take on Chinese side Jiangsu Sainty at the Seoul World Cup Stadium at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

After reaching the ACL quarterfinals in 2011, FC Seoul failed to make it to the event last year after it lost to the Ulsan Tigers in the 2011 K-League playoff. The Tigers went on to lift the ACL trophy last November.

Seoul FC also made it to the AFC Champions League quarterfinals in 2009. And in 2001, it finished runner-up in the Asian Club Championship, the predecessor to the AFC Champions League.

After the team’s unstoppable run last season, Choi has made few changes to his roster. That includes keeping Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic and Colombian midfielder Mauricio Uribe, whom the fans collectively call the “Demolition duo.”

Damjanovic scored 31 goals in 44 games last season, contributing to the team’s record-shattering finish. Seoul lost only six games, finishing 17 points clear of the second-place Jeonbuk Motors. Uribe, or Molina as he is known in Korea, also led the league in 19 assists last season.

“With no leakage of our forces, we have stronger confidence this year and are more willing to aim for a new goal,” Choi said. “We don’t have any plans for significant changes compared to last year.”

Three other K-League Classic clubs are also entering the Asian tournament this week, including the 2011 Asian runner-up Motors, which will play against Muangthong United of Thailand in Guangzhou, China tonight.

Four ACL tickets have been presented to K-League Classic teams including the top three from last season. The Suwon Bluewings, who finished fourth, also won a berth as the third place Pohang Steelers got a spot as winners of the 2012 K-League FA Cup. The Bluewings will visit the Central Mariners of Australia and the Steelers will host Beijing Guoan tomorrow.

K-League teams have won the Asian title in three of the past four years, including the Steelers in 2009 and the Seongnam Chunma in 2010.

A total of 32 teams will compete in eight groups in the 213 AFC Champions League, with the two best teams from each group advance to the Round of 16. The group competition will be held between Feb. 26 and May 1.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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