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Jeonbuk Advances to FIFA Club Cup

Posted November. 10, 2006 07:07,   


Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors has made it to the top of the 2006 Asian Football Confederation Champions League for the first time in the history of Korean professional football.

Jeonbuk lost to Al Karama (Syria) 1-2 in Homs, Syria on November 9, but advanced anyway based on their wins in the first and second rounds. Jeonbuk will represent Asia in the FIFA Club World Cup, which will be held in Japan starting December 11.

Khalid Bin Al Waleed Stadium in Homs was filled with shouts from 40,000 spectators. Jeonbuk, which made it to the finals after dramatic comebacks in the matches for the final eight teams as well as the quarterfinals, had the audience holding their breath until the last moment.

Jeonbuk allowed two goals one to Iyad Mando and Mohanad Ibrahim in the second half. The team was in a critical situation: the 2-0 victory in the first round looked like it would not hold up as the game inched closer toward extra time. But Jeonbuk showed off the same special comeback skills which awarded them their dramatic victories in their match against Shanghai Shenhua and the quarterfinal match with Ulsan Hyundai. With a header 41 minutes into the second half, Ze Carlo scored a goal that Kim In-ho crossed after a pass from Chung Jong-kwan. For a moment, the stadium was filled with cold silence, as if time had stopped.

Jeonbuk, which has received $600,000 (approximately 570 million won) in prize money, will play against the club champions from six continents at the FIFA Club World Cup for prize money of $15 million (approximately 14.3 billion won). Jeonbuk will play their first round on December 11 against the Mexican team America, the champions of Northern and Central America. If Jeonbuk manages to win, they will be playing against the “dream team,” Spain’s Barcelona, on December 14. Barcelona is one of the strongest teams in the world with players that would excite any soccer fan, such as Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi.

Even if Jeonbuk comes in last in this championship, ranking sixth, they will be given one million dollars for taking part, and if they score a win in their next match, they will secure two million dollars.

Jeonbuk Coach Choi Kang-hee said, “I would like to thank the players for playing with a fighting spirit and giving it their best to comeback in every game.” He added, “I would like to win the first round to play against Barcelona.”

Jeonbuk finished in eleventh place in the K-League after betting everything on the Champions League and with their dramatic comebacks, they finally have the winning trophy in their hands. This victory was more meaningful because of the hardships the team had experienced, having to move from one Hyundai Motors employee quarters to another without a clubhouse, and when the head of Hyundai Motors was arrested they had to consider giving up on the championship.

Choi Jin-cheol (age 35), a senior player on the team, who was voted as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for this match, spoke with tears in his eyes, “Although I have been on this team for the past eleven years, we were never able to get any satisfying results.” He added, “After winning this championship, I hope that the players of our team will be able to play in a better environment.”

The Asia Club Championship (league champions from each country) which took place until 2002 and the Asian Cup Winners Cup (FA cup champions from each country) were joined together in August, 2002. Korea has won the Asia Club Championship six times, taking second place three times at the Asian Cup Winners Cup. In the Asia Champions League, Al Ain (UAE) was the first champion in 2003, and Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia) won the cup in 2004 and 2005.