On-song Lim eyes Club World Cup qualification with Pohang

  • Pohang Steelers meet Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League final on 23 November

  • Attacker Lim Sanghyub has high hopes of bringing home the trophy

  • The left-winger, who has featured in four previous editions, previews the game with FIFA.com

Pohang Steelers enter Tuesday's 2021 AFC Champions League final against hosts Al Hilal aiming to emulate their heroics in 2009.

Twelve years back, the K League side prevailed against another Saudi giant in none other than two-time winners Al Ittihad in the final, winning by 2-1 to clinch the continental title. Inspired by that past feat, Kim Gidong's side enter the regional tournament finale keen on recapturing the Asian crown as midfielder Lim Sanghyub revealed.

"Al Hilal have a lot of good players," the 33-year-old told FIFA.com in a pre-match exclusive interview. "But football is a team sport, not just about individual performance. The stronger the opponents are, the stronger our team will come together. In that sense, I think we are ready to win this final."

With the winners advancing to the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup, Lim said that it is added motivation for them to battle to earn the right of representing Asia at the global showpiece.

"It's really an honor to go to the Club World Cup," he went on. "Personally, I want to play against world-class players and by doing so, I will be able to find out what level I am of."

Memorable campaign

It may remain to be seen as for what level he will reach at the FIFA Club World Cup should they make it. But Lim did pull off a series of brilliant performances during this campaign. Deployed as a left-winger, he scored four times as an Pohang stormed all the way to the final against all odds.

He opened his account by sealing a 2-0 victory against Thai league side Ratchaburi Mitr Phol in the opener before being on target in a 4-1 rout of Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta'zim.

He went on to impress in the knockout stage, notably completing a brace in the quarter-finals against Nagoya Grampus as Pohang avenged a 3-0 loss during the group phase to the same side by winning by the identical scoreline.

"This was a pivotal match of our campaign," he said, reflecting on the re-encounter against the Japanese giants. "We failed to win against them in the group stage, losing the first leg and drawing in the return. Nagoya were organised and strong. I really wanted to get revenge. And because we played against them on home soil, I really didn't want to lose again in front of our fans."

As it turned out, Nagoya pressed hard from the outset and looked threatening during the first half. Having held the visitors goalless, however, Pohang came into life after the restart with Lim breaking the deadlock. Lee Seungmo then doubled the lead before Lim rounded out the resounding win for the hosts with a stoppage-time strike.

"We were on the back foot in the first half but I believed that we could find chances. We kept them at bay and held on firmly [in the opening half] without collapsing and we played as a unit. I thought this led to our victory."

This year's AFC Champions League marks Lim's fifth Asian campaign, having featured on the continental scene four times with Jeonbuk Motors and Suwon Bluewings respectively.

"We reached the last four in 2018 when I played for Suwon, but unfortunately, we failed to progress further. And the sad story repeated itself last year when we lost on penalties in the quarter-final meeting [against Vissel Kobe]. These experiences were a great asset to me and helped me grow further. So this time I am more relaxed and confident than before," said Lim, who kept his cool to convert a spot-kick in Pohang’s penalty shoot-out victory against holders Ulsan Hyundai in the semi-finals.

Looking at the final, Lim believes that the experiences he has gained will stand him in good stead against Al Hilal. "Most think that you lose your form with the passage of time when you get older. But I think differently. With experience, I will take to the pitch with a strong belief in my play. My goal is to deliver a better performance," he concluded.