Jeonbuk Motors will try to make it three in a row for South
Korea when it meets Qatari squad Al Sadd in the Asian Champions
League final on Saturday.
Jeonbuk, which also won the Champions League title in 2006, will
have the advantage of playing at home, though the team will also be
without captain Cho Sung-hwan and Croatian striker Krunoslav
Lovrek, both of whom are suspended.
To make matters worse, Lee Dong-gook, the tournament’s leading
scorer, may not play after suffering a thigh injury.
A Japanese or Korean team has won the title for each of the last
five years. After Jeonbuk’s inaugural victory, J-League teams Urawa
Reds (2007) and Gamba Osaka (2008) came out on top, followed by
K-League clubs Pohang Steelers (2009) and Seongnam Ilhwa
Al Sadd is looking to become the first Qatari winner of the
tournament since its inception in 2003 and the first team from
western Asia to win since Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad did it in
Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee, who led the team to the 2006
championship, said he believes his side has enough quality players
to overcome the absences of Cho and Lovrek.
”From the beginning of the season our aim was the K-League and
the Asian Champions League and we have strength in depth,” said
Choi. ”Our game will not be greatly affected if one or two players
Cho received his second yellow card of the knockout stage in the
second leg of the semifinal against Al Ittihad last week, while
Lovrek was shown two yellow cards in the span of six minutes during
Choi confirmed that Lee may not be fully recovered in time to
play Saturday, but he was hopeful that the former Premier League
striker would at least be able to make an appearance in the
Jeonbuk has managed 31 goals in the tournament’s 11 games so far
and has won all six matches it has played at home.
”Individually, Al Sadd has many talented players and the
defense is well-organized but we have played against such teams in
the league all season and performed well,” Choi said. ”We know
exactly what we have to do. We are at home and at home we are
strong and it is an advantage and we will do all we can to get the
Al Sadd is also deeply unpopular in South Korea after
eliminating another K-League team, Suwon Bluewings, in the other
semifinal last week. After Al Sadd beat Suwon at home in the first
leg, a mass brawl broke out between the teams.
The South Korean media, which nicknamed the Qatari team ”Al
Badd,” have heavily criticized the Asian Football Confederation
for giving a six-game ban to Suwon’s Stevica Ristikj following the
fight, but allowing another player who was red-carded in the
incident, Al Sadd’s Kader Keita, to continue playing in the
Keita will be available for Saturday’s game against Jeonbuk, as
will Senegalese striker Mamadou Niang, who was also sent off during
the match. Midfielder Mesaad Al Hamad is out after suffering a
broken nose in the fight.
If Al Sadd wins, it would become the first team to lift the
trophy after going through the qualifying rounds.
The Qatari side even ran into controversy in that stage of the
tournament. The team only got into qualifying after a Vietnamese
club was expelled for failing to submit the correct
Then, the Qataris were beaten by Sepahan of Iran 1-0 in the
first leg of their quarterfinal, but the AFC overturned the result
and handed Al Sadd a 3-0 win after it ruled that Sepahan had
fielded an ineligible player.
Al Sadd coach Jorge Fossati insists that his team is in the
final on merit and should not be underestimated.
”The teams who have made it to the final in this type of
competition have earned their place,” the Uruguayan said as his
team arrived in South Korea on Thursday evening.
”Jeonbuk are a very good team, and we must take care and
respect them, but they must respect and take care with us,” said
Fossati, who took Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia to the semifinals last
”It is a long trip and the players are tired,” he added.
”This is my main concern, to make sure they recover between now
and the time of the game.”
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