Jeonbuk relishing the chance of a lifetime
With their first game against Club America coming in less than a week, Jeonbuk Motors are getting ready for their first foray on to the intercontinental stage.
The Asian champions have been preparing for the FIFA Club World Cup for the past month and according to coach Choi Kang-Hee, Jeonbuk are aiming for a winning start and a 'dream match' with Barcelona .
Even if Jeonbuk do not realise their dream, this year will be remembered as their finest hour since the club's formation 12 years ago. Winning the AFC Champions League title was a supreme achievement for the K-League outfit and their participation at Japan 2006 is in itself a welcome bonus.
Jeonbuk are determined to make an impact during the week-long tournament and show the rest of the world that they are not just going to make up the numbers in Tokyo.
"Our players are motivated by representing the K-League as well as Asia," said Choi. "I know the first match is not going to be easy but we are looking forward to playing well. We've almost finished analysing our opponents (Club America) and although they are a strong team we should be able to beat them. But to do this, we need to make the most of our physical and mental ability, which are our two major strengths."
His confidence was echoed by centre back Choi Jin-Cheul: "Our players have developed during the difficult games in the (AFC) Champions League and our morale is high after lifting the trophy. We're desperate to win the first game to play Barcelona."
Mexico's Club America stand between them and their dream and Choi is well aware of their threat. "We have to be ready for their three-prolonged attack. The Paraguayan striker (Salvador Cabanas) is very dangerous and is flanked by the veteran forwards (Claudio) Lopez and (Cuauhtemoc) Blanco ."
Nevertheless, the fact that this competition is held in neighbouring Japan will be an advantage for the Koreans, who will not be suffering from jetlag or adapting to the Asian climate.
"Our side will be supported by the Japanese crowd as we will be representing Asia," said midfielder Kim Hyeung-Bum. "We (Korea and Japan) are geographically close and the people are friendly. It will be just like a home game."
Yet, coach Choi is wary of making too much of the Asian connection. "Playing in Japan will be no problem for our team, but good players and teams can play well regardless of time difference or pitch condition," he said.
"For me, I'm just so pleased to be involved in this once in a lifetime opportunity. This is a 'World Cup' tournament so I told my players not to worry too much about the result. The players are preparing very well for it and I hope we can show you something special."