Champions all ready for battle

The Asian champions Pohang Steelers and their African counterparts TP Mazembe will come to Abu Dhabi next month for the Club World Cup.

Pohang Steelers celebrate after the final whistle in the game against Al Ittihad.
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The final two teams who will take part in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi were confirmed yesterday after Pohang Steelers became champions of Asia and TP Mazembe won the African crown. They join five other clubs - Al Ahli, the Pro League champions, Barcelona, Auckland City, Atlante and Estudiantes - in the two-week tournament which will run from December 9-19.

The Steelers, of South Korea, defeated Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad 2-1 in the final of the Asian Champions League to give them a record third continental title. Mazembe, from the DR Congo, triumphed over Nigeria's Heartland FC on away goals. They were 1-0 winners in the second leg, thanks to an own goal, and progress because of Mputu Mabi's strike in their 2-1 defeat in the first leg in Owerri last weekend.

Pohang's win over Al Ittihad came thanks to goals from Noh Byung-joon and Kim Hyung-il after 57 and 64 minutes. Although Mohammed Noor pulled a goal back 16 minutes from time, Pohang hung on comfortably to break Saudi Arabian hearts. Pohang coach Sergio Farias is delighted at the prospect of duelling with the cream of the world's clubs next month. "There is, of course, a lot of interest in the competition," he said. "It is a big competition and one that we will look forward to. I am not sure if we have what it takes to win, though that will be our target, but whatever happens, we will do our best."

That has been good enough this season as Pohang finished second in the K-League and are in with a chance of a fifth domestic title as the league enters its championship play-off series. Al Ittihad coach Gabriel Calderon would like to see the victors do Asia proud in Abu Dhabi. "Pohang are a good team and I hope that they can have success at the Club World Cup," he said. "They are very dangerous from set-pieces and can give any team problems."

What the former Saudi Arabia national team manager neglected to mention was the Steelers' fighting spirit. After an indifferent start to the season, at home and abroad, Pohang have proven to be an aggressive team who never know when they are beaten. With their participation in the global event, Pohang will end the year having played almost 60 matches.