ABU DHABI // As starters go, Pohang Steelers' dramatic penalty-shoot-out win over Concacaf champions Atlante was a fitting taster for the Club World Cup's main course. With thousands of Barcelona and Estudiantes fans filing into the stadium, the pre-final contest for third place bragging rights whet the appetite superbly. In the end, North America's finest succumbed to Asia's best 4-3 on penalties after goals either side of half-time - from Pohang's Brazilian striker Denilson and Atlante's Mexican international forward Rafael Marquez - saw the 90 minutes end 1-1.
Having rode his luck when three Gabriel Pereyra efforts rebounded off the frame of his goal during normal time, the goalkeeper Dong-Jin Song was the South Korean side's hero in the penalty shoot-out. Song, a replacement for the suspended Hwa-Young Shin, saved Marquez's spot-kick, before Horacio Peralta smashed his effort against the post. Pohang's nerves increased when Hee-Chul Park dragged what could have been the game-winning penalty wide, but Hyun-Gil Kim fired home the to seal third place.
"It is very important to have won third," said the Pohang coach Sergio Farias, who praised Song's performance. "It is a fantastic experience and will give my young players drive in the future. "Song was very impressive and made several good interventions. The quality he showed during the match, and particularly during the penalty kicks, was very positive for him and our team." The race for third aside, the question of whether Denilson could further his goals tally in the tournament provided an intriguing sub-plot. The burly hit-man's first-half effort took him to four in three Club World Cup games and earned him the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer. A well deserved accolade, according to Farias.
"He may not be widely known in Brazil, but Denilson is an experienced professional with great technical ability," said the fellow Brazilian. "He participates well in the group which is important to achieve success both individually and collectively." Having watched helplessly as Atlante passed up numerous chances, their coach Jose Cruz had kind words for his side and the main culprit Pereyra. "It was a very attractive match," said Cruz. "Gabby [Pereyra] is a very good professional and a huge plus for us. He generated a lot of opportunities but couldn't convert them into goals.
"We go back home happy and I think we have shown a good image of what we can produce. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; the important thing is participating. We would have loved to have come third and we're a little sad, but I'm very proud of my team, they played very well." firstname.lastname@example.org