x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Atlante in hunt for third spot

Atlante coach Jose Cruz is confident his Concacaf champions will recover their form in tonight's third and fourth play-off match against South Korea's Pohang Steelers.

ABU DHABI // Having seen his side beaten by an impressive Barcelona outfit in Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final, Atlante coach Jose Cruz is confident his Concacaf champions will recover their form in tonight's third and fourth play-off match against South Korea's Pohang Steelers. Cruz acknowledged the part the partisan support played in Barca's win at Zayed Sports City three nights ago, and admitted he is happy to be facing any side without Lionel Messi in its ranks.

"Barca are one of the best teams in the world and I'm not surprised they had the supporters behind them," said Cruz. "They are a very good team and they are the biggest show in town. The fans wanted Messi and when he got on to the pitch the dimension hanged completely. "He is from another galaxy, a very dominating figure. But Barca's co-ordination helps him a lot. Probably we would have done better had he not been playing, but that is football."

Cruz, however, is not expecting an easy ride against Sergio Farias's Asian champions. The Mexican coach expects the Steelers, who were left stunned when Italian referee Roberto Rosetti sent off three of their players in a 2-1 semi-final loss to Estudiantes, to be hungry for revenge. But whichever way the result goes, Cruz is content with his team's efforts in the UAE capital. "In Mexico, some supporters didn't think we would get third," he said. "If we get it, we will be very happy indeed. I know the Koreans are a very good team and they are concentrated mentally and physically on getting a result. They are strong and quick and it will not be an easy game. We will try to give it our best shot but we must play with sportsmanship and respect for our opponents."

emegson@thenational.ae Atlante v Pohang Steelers, KO 5pm, Aljazeera Sport 2