Although fans the world over will be focussed on the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 final between Spanish giants Barcelona and their Argentinian counterparts Estudiantes de La Plata this Saturday night, the match for third place between Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers and Mexican outfit Atlante a few hours earlier promises to be an equally enthralling contest between two different schools of football.
Pohang are seeking to become the first Korean side to secure a third place finish in this tournament, while Atlante will be hoping they can repeat the success of compatriots Necaxa, who took the last spot on the podium after beating Real Madrid on penalties in the tournament’s inaugural edition in Brazil nine years ago.
Pohang Steelers–Atlante, Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Saturday 19 December, 17.00 (local time)
Atlante are the fourth Mexican team to participate in the play-off for third place at a FIFA Club World Cup. Only once before have teams from Korea Republic and Mexico met in this competition – a quarter-final clash at Japan 2006 between CF America and Jeonbuk Hyundai which the CONCACAF champions won.
Atlante coach Jose Cruz can call on the services of a number of players who impressed in their opening two games, such as diminutive midfield livewire Christian Bermudez and the trio of Jose Gonzalez, Daniel Arreola and Guillermo Rojas, who were resolute in the first half of the semi-final against Barcelona before finally succumbing 3-1.
Meanwhile, Pohang’s Brazilian coach Sergio Farias faces the difficult task of replacing his three suspended players. Goalkeeper Shin Hwa Yong, midfielder Kim Jae Sung and defender Hwang Jin Sung all saw red in their semi against Estudiantes and miss Saturday’s game.
Once again Farias will be hoping for a big performance from compatriot Denilson, who underlined his importance to the side with two goals in their opening game against TP Mazembe and a third in the semi-final, where he was forced to play the final 15 minutes in goal.
1 – The number of goals needed by Denilson to become the top scorer in the history of the FIFA Club World Cup. The Brazilian is currently level with Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, French striker Nicolas Anelka, Angolan forward Flavio, England forward Wayne Rooney and his fellow countrymen Romario and Washington with three goals in the competition.
“Atlante will be tough opponents for us as they’re a big team. We need to be strong and at our best because finishing third is important for us,” Pohang Steelers striker Denilson.
“Pohang are a good team. It will be a hard game just like all the others in this tournament, and I’m certain they’ll battle all the way to finish third,” Atlante midfielder Santiago Solari.