ABU DHABI // Pohang Steelers are looking to capitalise on their South American connections as they bid to beat Copa Libertadores champions Estudiantes in the Club World Cup semi-final tonight. The South Korean side, who qualified for the tournament after winning the AFC Champions League last month, hope Brazilian coach Sergio Farias and striker Denilson can inspire them to become the first Asian team to progress to the final of club football's elite competition.
Farias, a former Brazil Under 20 coach, recognises that his young side face huge task at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Since the conception of the Club World Cup in 2000, the final has only ever been contested between the continental representatives of South America and Europe. Yet he remains hopeful the Steelers can spring a surprise. "Because I am South American I know the characteristics of football played on my continent," he said. "It will be very difficult against Estudiantes. Our players are still developing and now we play a team that is more mature in terms of international experience, but while football is composed of technique, there can be surprises.
"Only the development of the tournament will show if we can manage to reach our objective. But you should never underestimate any team that may be technically inferior to another. Football is full of examples where favourites have been beaten by underdogs. We'll see where we get, but we want to go all the way." Denilson, who netted a brace as his side came from behind to beat African champions TP Mazembe 2-1 in Friday night's quarter-final, said that he has an extra incentive to help defeat Alejandro Sabella's Argentines.
"We have a big rivalry between Brazil and Argentina," said the forward, who played for six years in the UAE. "Estudiantes have many excellent players, many of which have World Cup experience and it will be a very difficult game, but it is a chance to make a good example of Korean football. Our team is very young, but they are good and we will be aiming to perform at our best. "We have progressed through one stage of the tournament and hopefully proved that we can go further. Korean teams, as you saw on Friday, never give up. We will be trying our best to get to the final and I will be doing my all to do my job as best as I can and score the goals."
Farias is under no illusions though and is hoping to have ironed out the mistakes that allowed Mazembe to take the lead on Friday. "We allowed Mazembe too much space and we want to avoid this situation against Estudiantes," he said. "With their enormous technical capabilities they could create difficulties for us if we allow them to find the links between midfield and attack, but at the same time they should not think they will have it easy against Pohang."
Pohang Steelers v Estudiantes, KO 8pm, Aljazeera Sport 2 email@example.com