Monday, December 13, 2010

Seongnam's Out For Inter

K.League news.
2010 just keeps getting better and better for South Korean football and it could end on a real high if Seongnam Ilwha Chunma defeat European champions Inter Milan in the Club World Cup semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

It is a rare chance for a team from the K-League to mix it with the best in the world and fans back in East Asia will be eagerly tuning in to see if the seven-time champions can shock one of the biggest names in the world of football. If it happens, then a final is on the cards against either TP Mazembe of Congo and Brazil’s Internacional, no relation to the Italians.

Seongnam’s coach Shin Tae-yong thinks that the final is possible. Shin, just 40, led the team to the Asian Champions League title in November with a 3-1 win over Zob Ahan of Iran in Tokyo. That also granted access to the intercontinental competition behind held in United Arab Emirates.

On Saturday, Seongnam blew away local team Al Wahda with a 4-1 win. It was a fine display of clinical attacking soccer and served notice to the Italians, who won the European title with a victory over Bayern Munich back in May, that it will be a tough game in the fast-growing sporting city. Mauricio Molina, Sasa Ognenovski, Choi Sung-kuk and Cho Dong-keon were all on target for the K-League team.

“Inter are the top team in the world so it won’t be an easy game, but our players are here to do our very best and I’m sure we’ll play well against them," Shin said .“As an Asian team if we do get to the finals it will be an honour to Asia, to me and the players it will be a great honour.

“Inter are a very good team, but to challenge them at least once is a goal for all Asian teams. In Korea there is a proverb that goes something like ‘better than death is to challenge’ and we’ll apply that in the match. If we can show them that we can be in the same game as them, it will be great for us."

Inter boasts world stars such as the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder, one of the best players of 2010, Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito of Argentina and Sweden’s star Zlatan Ibrahamovic. It quite a line-up but the Nerazzurri, the blue-and-blacks, have not been in the best of form this season.

New coach Rafa Benitez, the Spaniard who took Liverpool to the 2005 European title, has found it tough to match the achievement of Jose Mourinho. The former Porto and Chelsea coach left to take control of Real Madrid in the summer. It has even been suggested that failure in this competition could cost Benitez his job. Three losses in the last four games in Italy have left the team in the unfamiliar position of sixth in the Serie A standings.

Benitez is aware of the rumours and reports.

“There is talk about many possible replacements for me, but I am the Inter coach, I want to win this Club World Cup and I am sure that if I do so, I will be here for a long time yet."

Shin has been called the “Asian Mourinho” for his confident comments but knows that the odds are against his team.

“In the media they’re talking a lot about Inter’s conflicts at home, but I’m not really concerned about that. The coach and players if they have a purpose and goal they’ll have a great game.

“If they show their unity they can beat us, but if we challenge them I’m sure there is a weakness because of their conflicts at home.”

“In the locker room I will tell them it’s worth a try because they will never have an opportunity like that, and now that we have an opportunity we should definitely make the most of it.”

Whatever happens, it will be a night to remember for Seongnam’s players. The eleven who swatted aside Al Wahda, supported by a passionate Abu Dhabi crowd of 35,000, will be desperate to take on the Italians.

It has been some year for the club on and increasingly off the field. The Asian success put around $2.5 million in the coffers and, so far, the Club World Cup has added another $2million. A win over Inter would add an extra $3million.

But now is not the time to think about money. Seongnam has a game against one of the biggest teams in the world.

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