x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Shin Tae-yong: Seongnam ready to challenge top teams

The South Korean coach is predicting a victory for his side when they face Al Wahda.

Shin Tae-yong, right, the Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma coach, and his goalkeeper, Juny Sung-ryong, hold the Club World Cup trophy during a press conference in Abu Dhabi last night.
Shin Tae-yong, right, the Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma coach, and his goalkeeper, Juny Sung-ryong, hold the Club World Cup trophy during a press conference in Abu Dhabi last night.

ABU DHABI // The trick to playing in the big game is getting there, and Shin Tae-yong, the coach of Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, seems conflicted between looking ahead to high-profile matches with the world's elite and making sure his side do not trip over an impediment on the way. Say, for example, Al Wahda of the UAE.

Four hours before kick-off of to the 2010 Club World Cup last night, Shin paid Wahda the compliment of rightly assuming the Pro League champions would eliminate Hekari United and advance to a quarter-final match with his South Korean side on Saturday. He and his entire team were going to watch the game, he said.

"I really don't know much about Al Wahda," Shin said through an interpreter. "But I do know that it is the UAE's No 1 team, and because they are playing at home they will be a strong team, for sure. I'm very cautious because I know it will be a very challenging match. I do believe that Al Wahda will win the match [with Hekari] and that we will have a great match with Al Wahda. That's our first goal."

But Shin hardly paused to take a breath before predicting his team would win the quarter-final and go on to face Inter Milan in the semi-final on December 15.

He said watching clubs from Europe and South America contest every final in the first six incarnations of the Club World Cup had left him feeling "envious", and he promised that Asia would soon be joining the traditional powers in the final stages of the tournament.

"We want to defeat the world's No 1 in Inter Milan, though it is a great challenge for us to confront them and to achieve an unexpected result in this match and become the first Asian club to get to the finals at the Club World Cup."

He added: "The level of the Asian federation clubs has improved so much, and to represent them is so important. European clubs and South American clubs have always been the main players, and to be able to participate with them is a great honour."

Shin believes that Asian teams will soon be considered serious contenders for the Club World Cup.

"I think the results will improve for the Asians and soon we will be among the world-famous teams," he said.

This is not Shin's first visit to the capital. He played three matches here in 1996 while representing South Korea in the Asian Cup. His country made the knockout stages before losing; the UAE reached the final before falling to Saudi Arabia.

"There is a lot of change in Abu Dhabi," he said. "It has become a really big city. It's good to see all the big developments. The atmosphere and the weather is just wonderful. I'm very happy and satsified to be here."

Both Shin and his goalkeeper, Juny Sung-ryong, noted the improvement in the weather between Seongnam, a suburb of Seoul, and the UAE.

"In Korea today it snowed very much," Shin said. "It's been below 0°C. Right now, Abu Dhabi is like the Korean autumn, so our players love this weather."

Said Jung: "I think Abu Dhabi has the best weather in the world to play football in right now. It's really cold in Korea."

 

poberjeurge@thenational.ae