There is something about the United Arab Emirates that teams from Korea Republic obviously seem to like. The national side won 2-0 there in June to secure their ticket to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, and Pohang Steelers have just registered another notable success in the UAE by finishing third at the FIFA Club World Cup.

The AFC champions were made to work hard for their prize, eventually overcoming Atlante of Mexico 4-3 on penalties in Saturday’s match for third place, the game having ended level at 1-1 after extra time. Talking afterwards to FIFA.com, their Brazilian coach Sergio Farias described the third-place finish, the third consecutive by an Asian side and the first by a team from Korea Republic, as “just reward”.

“It’s very important for us, of course, to take third place,” said the understandably satisfied Farias before pointing out the benefits that the UAE adventure will have on his side. “A lot of the players only turned professional a year ago and this experience can only help them raise their game. It’s going to provide them with the perfect incentive to keep getting better and better.”

“It’s when things get tough that you learn the most,” continued the Brazilian tactician, who sees the last few days as a springboard for his side. “And if you can come out on top despite it all, then that makes things so much easier.”

A major factor in the Steelers’ excellent showing in Abu Dhabi was the goalscoring form of Denilson, who put his side ahead against the Mexicans and ended the tournament as top marksman with four goals, an impressive tally that also makes him the highest scorer in the history of the FIFA Club World Cup. Not surprisingly, coach Farias was delighted with his compatriot’s contribution. “Denilson is virtually unknown back home, but he’s a great worker with a lot of technical ability and heaps of determination. I’m delighted to see his hard work result in success on both a personal and team level.”

Bolstered by their displays in the Middle East, the men from Pohang can look forward to the future with confidence and set their sights even higher. “In a competition like this first place is always possible,” added Farias. “My players are going to really benefit from being here and I would like nothing better to come back for the next Club World Cup. If we do make a return, we’ll be aiming to go one better and reach the final.”